As an amateur film critic, I have panned many blockbusters and watched rote responses roll in which offer no greater defense of the panned film than, “This film was just plain fun. Why don’t you snobby film critics get it?” Self-defense is usually ugly, even when it is necessary, though I often want to swing back, “Alright, smart guy, you try it.” Claiming that a film is “just plain fun” is easy enough, but a fellow couldn’t exactly make a career of it. Further, the claim that a film is “just plain fun” doesn’t really give anyone much to think about. “Just plain fun” doesn’t really clarify anything. If a film is nothing more than fun, it doesn’t really leave anything to the imagination. The imagination is what takes over after mere fun has run its course.
When people object that this or that panned blockbuster is “just plain fun,” I often want to ask them to tease that claim out to 1200 words. And after you have teased “just plain fun” out to 1200 words, can you do it again, and again, and again? At about the 300 word threshold, explaining “just plain fun” runs out of steam. Readers drop out. They get it. 300 words is honestly about 297 words too many.
In truth, the reviewer comes to look at most films differently after writing 300 words about them. Once you write a dozen or so film reviews that top 1200 words, the idea of defending “just plain fun” once again becomes tedious and the critic begins to wonder why “just plain fun” films are so limited in their intellectual scope. If the point of any one film is to be “just plain fun,” why not watch the last film which was “just plain fun”? And if a certain film which is “just plain fun” on one viewing is a little less fun on a second viewing, why? And is it a buzzkill to include in a review all the reasons that a “just plain fun” film isn’t going to do much on a second viewing? And if a critic includes that information, should he expect to be told, “You snobby film critics don’t get it”?
The longer the critic thinks about it, the more interesting it seems that a film could be fun on a first viewing but not on a second. As he dwells on this further, the critic finds that he can’t enjoy a film the first time if he knows it will be boring the second time. He finds his standards rising, and he finds that people who don’t have to write about film are more easily satisfied with anything thrown up on the screen.