Classic movies that don’t work for me

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A reader named Dan sent me a nice e-mail that reads as follows:

Just wanted to say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your reviews over the years and to keep it up!  But I have a quick question…. what movies that are universally regarded as classics do you feel are overrated??

Ooh, that’s a fun question! I don’t like to say “overrated,” though. That term implies a certain arrogance: “The people who liked this film over-praised it, whereas I am praising it exactly the right amount.” Just because a lot of people loved something and you didn’t doesn’t mean they’re all wrong or deluded or something. It just means you have different opinions.

But I know what you mean. You mean movies that are supposed to be great that I, personally, didn’t care for. I can think of a few.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” does very little for me. It’s a technical marvel in many ways, especially considering when it was made, and I like its ideas. But the way it’s dragged out feels interminable to me.

“Bringing Up Baby” is a classic Cary Grant/Katherine Hepburn comedy in which the Hepburn character drives me crazy. It’s the kind of comedy where farcical things happen only because she talks too fast and he doesn’t interject quickly enough to prevent her from running roughshod over him. If both people would slow down a second and breathe, the movie would be over. I find Hepburn’s character very, very annoying.

I have never understood the fondness for the movie version of “Grease.” It misses most of the satiric points of the stage version (as do nearly all productions of the stage version now) and comes across as a cheesy pastiche of misplaced ’50s nostalgia.

I know I’m not the first person to observe that while “Citizen Kane” is a masterpiece of cinematography and other craft elements, the story itself is kinda boring.

Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai” is another one that has many admirable technical qualities but that leaves me cold, story-wise. Or, rather, the story is fine — it’s the way it stretches on for 3 1/2 hours that loses me.

I have tried to love “Young Frankenstein.” I have watched it twice. Both times, it has failed to do anything more than mildly amuse me. And yet I love “The Producers” and “Blazing Saddles”!

In each of these cases, I watched the films knowing they were considered classics and fully expecting to like them. I did not, in other words, watch them with a chip on my shoulder, hoping they would disappoint me so I could be an iconoclast and dislike them. I mention this because I know that’s how a lot of people approach things that are popular, i.e., “Everyone loves it, so that means it must suck,” and I think that’s an immature attitude to have. But I digress.

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