Posted on Friday, June 18th, 2010 by Peter Sciretta
When the Rotten Tomatoes twitter account announced that Toy Story 3 still had a 100% fresh rating with over 130 reviews and counting, I got excited. I’ve seen the movie twice now, and it deserves all the praise it has and will recieve. The reason I got excited is that it had the chance to become the best reviewed movie in the history of cinema (this according to Rotten Tomatoes of course, albeit still a milestone achievement).
I’m not going to debate the merits of the achievement — best reviewed film of all time doesn’t mean best movie of all time. Also, as we know Rotten Tomatoes is not based on a scale of enjoyment, just thumbs up or down. Meaning, the best reviewed film of all time on Rotten Tomatoes means the largest percentage of possitive reviews.
With 147 100% positive reviews, Toy Story 2 has held the coveted top slot for eleven years and counting. The film to come closest was the 2008 documentary Man On Wire — 100% fresh with 142 reviews, six short of the #1 slot. And how fitting would it have been to have the Pixar’s latest film, the third film in the trilogy, knock Toy Story 2 from the top of the mountain.
What happened? You guessed it. Armond White — the notorious contrarian movie reviewer for the alt-weekly New York Press. You might recall that White was the first critic to give Pixar’s last film Up a negative review. Whats worse, he gave Jonah Hex a positive review, a film which has been panned by critics and moviegoers (12% on Rotten Tomatoes with almost 90 reviews).
Here is an excerpt from White’s review of Toy Story 3 titled “BORED GAMES”:
Toy Story 3 is so besotted with brand names and product-placement that it stops being about the innocent pleasures of imagination—the usefulness of toys—and strictly celebrates consumerism. … But none of these digital-cartoon characters reflect human experience; it’s essentially a bored game that only the brainwashed will buy into. Besides, Transformers 2 already explored the same plot to greater thrill and opulence. … When Toy Story 3 emulates the suspense of prison break and horror films, it becomes fitfully amusing (more than can be said for Wall-E or Up) but this humor depends on the recognition of worn-out toys which is no different from those lousy Shrek gags. … The Toy Story franchise isn’t for children and adults, it’s for non-thinking children and adults. When a movie is this formulaic, it’s no longer a toy because it does all the work for you. It’s a sap’s story.
Here is an excerpt from White’s review of Jonah Hex:
“Jonah Hex does for the western what the Crank movies do for the urban action film; simultaneously commenting on genre practice. … Hayward’s action scenes depict a terrorist environment way past Pixar-kiddieland. Bombs, flames, explosions carry 9/11 force, replete with hellhound and ravens—creatures whose myths help vanquish anxiety—all to a pounding score that re-routes death metal back to cathartic affirmation. … Without a $50 million ad budget to make Jonah Hex seem important, the media feels free to trash it—doing so exposes their collusion with marketing and refusal to read film for personal reflection. True art is watching hot-chick Megan Fox (as Lilah the hooker) fearlessly staring at the most grotesque side of Jonah’s face as if coming to grips with her own exploitation. Beautiful and brilliant. I previously remarked how “Neveldine-Taylor stand so lonely on the culture’s edge that their au courant ingenuity seems absolutely avant-garde when compared to standard box-office formula.” Greed is a cultural hex.”
I have no problem with a differing opinion at all — actually I welcome it. Especially an opinion that makes me reevaluate my experience, and the art. But White’s reviews don’t seem to serve that function. Instead, White gets off on being a contrarian, and nothing more. His list also includes unfavorable thumbs downs for Inglourious Basterds, District 9, The Wrestler, In The Loop, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince , 500 Days of Summer, Avatar, Up in the Air, The Princess and the Frog, An Education, Star Trek, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hangover, The Dark Knight, Gone Baby Gone, Iron Man, There Will Be Blood, and Zodiac. Did I mention that he gave Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen a positive review? Even Roger Ebert calls White “a troll.”
Oh well, the second best reviewed film of all time is still quite an achievement.
Post note: After writing this story, another critic named Cole Smithey filed the second negative review for the film.
Update: Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich has sent out a tweet, a a Buzz Lightyear quote from Toy Story 1, which appears to be a vague response to the two negative reviews: