A good example of a bad review

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Browsing at my old stomping grounds, eFilmCritic (a mirror site for Hollywood B****slap), I saw the first paragraph of David Hollands’ one-star review of “Slumdog Millionaire” and knew I didn’t need to read any further. In just two sentences, Hollands does four things that are at least annoying and possibly flat-out amateurish.

Here’s what he wrote:

When a film garners as much critical praise as “Slumdog Millionaire” has, one assumes watching the movie will be like witnessing the second coming of Christ. When I heard the praise growing, I didn’t join in the chorus; “Slumdog Millionaire” is directed by Danny Boyle, one of the most overrated filmmakers of all time.

Here’s what’s wrong with it:

When a film garners as much critical praise as “Slumdog Millionaire” has, one assumes watching the movie will be like witnessing the second coming of Christ.

If one does assume that, then one is setting oneself up for disappointment. Is Hollands, as a movie critic, saying that he lets himself get so overwhelmed by hype and buzz and publicity that he goes into films with crazily unrealistic expectations? Beware of any critic who does that.

Beware also of any critic who begins a review by talking about what OTHER people thought of the movie. Writing a feature about how a film has been received is one thing. But if it’s a review — and this is stashed in eFilmCritic’s “reviews” section — then it should be the author’s opinion of the movie, not his opinion of other people’s opinions. Why? Because by mentioning the film’s praise right off the bat, Hollands gives the impression that his opinion is a reaction to THAT, and not to the movie itself.

When I heard the praise growing, I didn’t join in the chorus; “Slumdog Millionaire” is directed by Danny Boyle, one of the most overrated filmmakers of all time.

Ah, I see. He knew in advance that he wouldn’t like the film, because he hates Danny Boyle. And what do you know — he saw the film, and he hated it! His prophecy was fulfilled!

Look, if you’ve hated every film by a certain director, that’s fine. I’ve loathed all of Rob Zombie’s efforts, for example. But Hollands makes it sound like he used those prior experiences to pre-judge the new movie. How about mentioning a specific Boyle film or two, with just a phrase or descriptor indicating why you disliked them? Anything to let us know that you’ve arrived at your anti-Boyle stance legitimately, case-by-case, and not out of some blind, irrational bias.

Finally, there’s that word again: “overrated.” Saying that Danny Boyle is an “overrated” director tells us nothing. All it really means is that other people like him more than you do. Well, OK — so what?

But “overrated” is used as a way of saying more than that, and this is why it bugs me. When people say something is “overrated,” what they mean is this: “The amount I liked this thing is exactly the right amount to like it. I am the baseline. If you liked it more than I did, then you have erred.” And that’s obnoxious and presumptuous. Beware of any critic who uses the word “overrated.”

(Full disclosure, and to save you the trouble of checking: I have used the word “overrated” three times in movie reviews, twice in 2000 and once in 2001, in reference to “Fargo,” “The Cider House Rules,” and “Donnie Darko.” You should have bewared — bewore? — of me then, too. If I were expressing those sentiments today, I would do a better job of it.)

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