Back before Matt and Ben and Bennifer and Ben & Gwyneth and “Ben & Matt” and Matt and Winona and the Sexiest Man Alive, there was a little movie called “Good Will Hunting”, starring that guy I remembered from “School Ties” and another guy who I didn’t remember from “School Ties”. It came advertised on a little flier I got in the mail. Would I like to attend an advance screening of this film?, the flyer asked. Well, sure, I decided, and I called the number on the flier and RSVPed.

I knew almost nothing about the movie, and absolutely nothing about what it was soon going to unleash upon us all. I took my friend Janice with me, and when it ended, I turned to her and said – I believe in these exact words – “So, that was crap, right?” As it turned out, Janice kinda liked it, and so did the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and in fact, most of America. Who knew? What Miramax films so graciously gave me with that flier was more than a free movie pass. It was the opportunity to form an independent opinion. And when it comes to movies, that’s a rare thing.

A few weeks ago, I got a similar flier, and this one was for “Big Fish”, which I knew only slightly more about. One of the things I knew was that it was a Tim Burton movie. Even if he never directs another movie as good as “Pee Wee’s Good Adventure” – and all indications are that he won’t — he maintains my undying loyalty for that masterpiece alone. So I RSVPed for this one, too, and in so doing, I got a slight jump on the critics.

My spoiler-free review: eh. It was typical Tim Burton. Moments of fun and inventiveness weighed down slightly by Burton’s weak sense of story. I wanted it to be great, but it was just okay. It certainly wasn’t anything I’d heap bile and venom upon. Well, today, the movie got reviewed in the trades, and both bile and venom were heaped liberally. Did I miss something? Did I sit through the year’s biggest turkey thinking I’d merely had a so-so taco salad? I can’t help thinking that if I’d seen the movie after reading those reviews, I might’ve viewed it differently. I might’ve said, “Oh, yeah, I see what everyone’s talking about. This is junk.” Or maybe I would’ve risen to its defense: “The critics are wrong! This is a misunderstood classic!”

Maybe if I’d gone in knowing what the critical mass was going to be, I would have been able to form a strong enough opinion about the movie to debate it. As is, I don’t know what to think, and that’s no fun. I want to argue this. I want to be a Siskel to somebody’s Ebert. Instead, I feel like a Roeper, shrugging my shoulders and saying, “Gee, the costumes were nice.”

So I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s more fun to see a movie after you’ve heard what everyone else thinks, even if it sometimes ruins the film. If I’d gone into “The Full Monty” blindly, I probably would’ve thought it was a delightful little romp with a few good chuckles. But because I was expecting Best Picture material, I wasn’t just disappointed, I was pissed off. I guess I was mad at the hype, but I took it out on the movie. I told everyone I hated it. The same goes for “In the Bedroom”. What a piece of shit that was. Not really, but I still hold a grudge against all the people who claimed it was genius. And “Leaving Las Vegas”, too. No, on second thought that really was garbage. I guess.

I also saw “The Triplets of Belleville” this weekend. That’s that brilliant French animated film you’ve probably heard all the critics raving about. “Oscar-caliber!” they say. “A masterpiece!” “Truly original!” “A triumph!” Except it sucks. I mean, it was awful. Weird, creepy, confusing and boring as hell. It was one of those eighty-minute movies that lasts five hours. You feel older when it ends, and you’ve bonded for life with whomever you saw it with. It’s the worst French import since four-year-old singing sensation Jordy. If I had a choice between vacationing in Basra or seeing this movie again, I’d have to dig out my passport. The critics are wrong. “The Triplets of Belleville” is cinematic puke. No, it’s worse than puke. It’s puke that’s been licked up by a dog and re-puked on top of other puke. A pox on this film! A pox!

There. Now see how much fun that was?

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