In stark contrast to my last post, I recently watched Jamie Kennedy’s “documentary” Heckler. It winds up being a lot less of a documentary than it does him whining that people critique his consistently terrible movies, but did get me thinking. And frankly, I think I’m too negative.

Now, let’s be very clear: Kennedy has made a lot of awful dreck that deserves ridicule and Heckler is basically him taking it personally. But despite his “poor me” bit there are some moments of brilliance. And what really struck me in the end were two thoughts.

  1. Sometimes that “crappy” movie just wasn’t aimed at you.
  2. A good critic sees the negative and the positive, comments on both, and doesn’t just rip something apart for their own kicks. Criticism should be constructive.

It would be easy to deride Son of the Mask (which I haven’t seen, nor have any interest in), but it was apparently a children’s movie. Kickin’ It Old Skool is a really stupid movie, but I enjoyed it a lot because that was part of the joke. Sometimes it’s simply our frame of mind/reference that’s more skewed than anything.

I still hate the Star Wars prequels and Indiana Jones IV. I still think George Lucas is a terrible filmmaker. But now I catch myself trying to justify ripping on Mr. Lucas because I said he was a good story guy or contributed in other ways as a passing compliment as if that would make it okay to savage his directorial abilities. Does it? Does Mr. Lucas deserve to have his directorial shortcomings pointed out loudly and repeatedly? Is that personal or professional? Is it done on behalf of the audience or the writer? Did I give enough and fair credit to Mr. Lucas’ positive contributions to film?

I think the reason Jamie Kennedy came across as whining in Heckler is because I’ve seen him do some fantastic stuff. He was obviously a fan favorite as Randy in the Scream movies. And when you’re introduced to somebody through great performances, that’s what you expect from them- so the turds later cause you to shout, “What were you thinking?!?!” But maybe that also causes an unrealistic expectation.

Obviously, not everything can be great. Like Syndrome noted in The Incredibles: when everybody’s special, nobody is. If there was never a bad movie made, then there would be nothing to make Jaws or Saving Private Ryan outstanding. I recently saw Premium Rush (I was literally the only person in the theater) and I thought it was fantastic. Is it a classic? Of course not. But it wasn’t made to be a movie that divulges the secrets of life, either. It was simply made to be the best subculture sports movie it could, and in that it succeeded wildly. So is it the movie that needs to be better, or the viewers frame of reference?

All this is just a really long winded way of saying I plan on watching myself more carefully in the future. Because I worry at times that I write like a negative political campaign advertiser- unaccountable to anyone, making my target the butt of jokes simply because I can. Ripping on Harleys, Pontiacs and George Lucas is too easy. Being negative and tearing down is always easy. So maybe I need to exercise the ability to speak positively of things I still ultimately don’t favor. Frankly, I feel like that would make me a better writer. Because I’ve read negative commentary on “Product X” before and it’s often clear that the author has such an agenda as to make their opinion untrustworthy or even worthless.

I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want to be a negative Nancy. And I feel I’ve just been entirely too negative lately. Maybe it’s from not adjusting to small town midwestern life very well, but that’s no excuse. From here on out I’m going to do my best to look for positive traits and speak on those in a fair measure against the negative traits of anything I review. Because that’s the only way for a review of criticism to be fair/balanced. Anything skewed too heavily one way or the other is just the ravings of a fanboy or petulant child. I want my opinion to be trusted, so I’m going to work to earn that trust.

Thank you, Jamie Kennedy, for snapping me out of my “everything is awful” funk. If you’re ever in the miserable town of Fargo promoting some lousy movie, I’d love to buy you a crappy cup of coffee.

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