One of the reasons the studios give for making critics watch comedies at public screenings instead of press-only affairs is that they think we’ll have a better impression of the movie if we see it with an audience. The thinking is that laughter is contagious, so if the audience is laughing — and they always are, because they’re giddy at seeing a movie for free before it opens — then so will we.
What the studios have not yet discovered is that it doesn’t work. If we’re sitting through an awful comedy, hearing the braying laughter of those around us does not sway our opinion. All it does is make us think, “What are these idiots laughing at?”
I was reminded of this phenomenon Monday night while enduring “Wild Hogs.” It stars Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, AND John Travolta, which makes me wonder which of my nightmares will come true next. It also stars William H. Macy, who’s a really GOOD actor, and so it’s very sad to see him mired in this bog of awfulness.
The audience was vomiting on itself with laughter from start to finish. The more obscene, illogical, or juvenile the humor got, the more they howled. It was like someone set a monkey loose in a class full of retards.
Anyway, “Wild Hogs” is awful, but “Zodiac” is OK. It’s hampered by the uncooperative facts of the real-life case it’s based on, but it’s a well-made production.
“Black Snake Moan” opens today too, but I don’t have a review of it for reasons discussed in both the print edition of “In the Dark” (subscribe here) and the podcast version (listen here). I aim to have one posted by Monday, though.