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Friday June 5, 2015
Four of Roger Ebert’s funniest negative movie reviews, annotated.
A legend in our time
Roger Ebert is the king of movie criticism. A pioneer in his field, he was clever, creative, and always came off as a regular person. He established his legend both as a writer for the Chicago Sun-Times and on TV shows like Siskel and Ebert (boy does that take me back) and Ebert and Roeper.
An underrated aspect of his work is his humor. Whether coming up with the perfect one-liner in a column or arguing hilariously with his television co-host, Ebert’s quick wit was often on display.
Below are four of his funniest negative reviews. I owe a heavy debt to an article by Stacy Conradt that inspired this piece.
The Brown Bunny (zero stars)
I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny.
Perhaps funnier than the review is how Ebert responded to an insult from the director when he found out about the review. As Conradt notes, “When the movie’s director responded by mocking Ebert’s weight, Ebert said, “It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of The Brown Bunny." Game, set, match.
Freddy Got Fingered (zero stars)
This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.
Ouch. This bit of wit is probably my favorite Ebert line. I believe him, too.
Clifford (half star)
It’s not bad in any usual way. It’s bad in a new way all its own. There is something extraterrestrial about it, as if it’s based on the sense of humor of an alien race with a completely different relationship to the physical universe. The movie is so odd, it’s most worth seeing just because we’ll never see anything like it again. I hope.
Honestly, this review kinda makes me want to see it. Its humor is metaphysically bad? What other movie carries that boast? Something that has “a completely different relationship to the physical universe” sounds pretty good to me. Regardless of how bad I’m sure it is.
Mad Dog Time (zero stars)
Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. Oh, I've seen bad movies before. But they usually made me care about how bad they were. Watching 'Mad Dog Time' is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line.... 'Mad Dog Time' should be cut into free ukulele picks for the poor.
And you thought that an insult couldn’t get any more wicked than the barrel bit. Worse than staring at a blank screen? Free ukulele picks for the poor? Who thinks of analogies like that? Only the greatest movie critic of our time.
Check out Part II for Ebert’s hilarious thoughts on Spice World, Tommy Boy, and others.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blog Curious North.