Roger Ebert, one of my very favorite critics ever, recently caused a stir with a review of a film that turned out to really only address the first 8 minutes. So bad was this film that he couldn’t bear to watch any further into it. Of course, many among his readership erupted in angry diatribes about this, saying his job is to review the film, the whole film, and nothing but the whole film. But you know what? Ebert is one of those rare experts in the field for whom I hold complete respect on everything he says. That’s not to say I agree with everything he says – but I respect him immensely. In this case, however, I do agree, and it’s because of an incredibly thoughtful review for a mere 8 minutes of film that he did watch. There’s far more thought put into his writing than this awful sounding film warranted. What’s unfortunate is that if you read his follow-up, where he actually does review the entire film, you can click through to his further thoughts on the subject on his blog and read comments from readers, and you will see how people do not grasp that it really is possible to know a “tru” stinker from just 8 minutes. His review points it all out – he needs no more than this to know it will not get better. When you have seen as many films as he has, it’s pretty easy to spot the hopeless ones.
Sometimes you have to trust an expert to know when the signs are there – Ebert is one such expert. If there’s one critic I have come to trust, it’s Ebert, and it’s not because every positive review leads me to a great film – it’s because his reviews are written in such a way that I can tell, regardless of his rating, whether I will like it or not. That is the sign of a great critic, and he is a real rarity.