Now, forced to really give it some thought after Smith's recent Twitter tirade, threatening to ban media from screening his new films, I'm left confused at my past response. I've always just perceived him as a smart filmmaker. And it's not that I'm having a sudden catharsis, realizing I've never been a fan of Smith's films -- I've always kind of known that -- I'm more curious to why I've been so afraid to admit this before. I always gave Kevin Smith the benefit of the doubt. Though, I'm not exactly quite sure why, considering I don't particularly enjoy his films. Without giving it too much thought before, I think, perception probably played a part; perception that Smith was so "indie cool" that I obviously was too square if I didn't get the joke.
Now, forced to really give it some thought after Smith's recent Twitter tirade, threatening to ban media from screening his new films, I'm left confused at my past response. I've always just perceived him as a smart filmmaker. And it's not that I'm having a sudden catharsis, realizing I've never been a fan of Smith's films -- I've always kind of known that -- I'm more curious to why I've been so afraid to admit this before.
Here's the thing: I didn't hate 'Cop Out.' Though, to be fair, before I saw the film -- at, yes, an early screening -- I was braced for the absolute worst. What I got was something a lot better than my low expectations, but far from what a reasonable human being would describe as "good." For me, it approached "serviceable." But for a lot of others, it didn't (especially critics; the film registered a paltry 19 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). And a lot of others were quite vocal about their feelings. Smith is not happy about that (hold this thought).
Look, I loved the conversation between Dante and Randal in 'Clerks' about innocent contractors losing their lives on the second Death Star as much as anyone. And I appreciate what Smith did in that film on such a small budget. (Though, I think 'Clerks' just may be one of the most overrated films of all time. Yes, quite a statement for a film that had a budget just over $27,000. And this is certainly not Smith's fault. I digress.) I also appreciate Smith for what he's the best at: Being a vocal and halfway respected (hold this thought, too) voice of the common fan. He has his pulse on what movie fans want when it comes to films that have any resonance in today's popular culture. This is what's so frustrating about Smith: He seems to know what people want when it's other people's projects (and a lot of the time he's right), but he never seems to deliver with his own projects. We've been promised a Kevin Smith superhero film for over a decade. Where is it?
Seriously, look at his recent resume: 'Jersey Girl,' 'Clerks II,' 'Cop Out.' Then there are his "good" films: 'Zack and Miri Make a Porno,' 'Chasing Amy,' 'Dogma.' I tried liking these films. I really did. Fine, 'Chasing Amy' was OK, but not nearly as great as the pedestal it's been placed upon. When compared to his other films? Well, sure. As a standalone film? Again, it's OK. But hey, it's Kevin Smith! He's edgy! There are scenes with poop and donkeys. Genius! Again, I'm not sure why I was so afraid to admit I'm not a fan. Maybe, until recently, it's because he seems like a nice enough guy. A "fan" who I wouldn't mind playing a game of "Dig-Dug" or "Berzerk" with.
I can't be the only one who feels his way. I seem to know a lot of "Kevin Smith Fans" but I'm not so sure they actually go see his films, judging from the box office numbers. Surprisingly, Smith has been spewing vitriol for those who dare criticize 'Cop Out,' yet 'Cop Out' is Smith's greatest box-office success to date, grossing just under $43 million domestically. This is a man who's had Bruce Willis, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Seth Rogen star in his films... and he still has never grossed over $50 million domestically with an individual film. Something seems wrong here.
Smith's Twitter tirade strikes a chord. Not because I may never see a screening of a Smith film again -- that's his and the studio's choice -- it's just that his logic is WAY off base. He writes on his Twitter, "You wanna enjoy movies again? Stop reading about them & just go to the movies." Does he realize how expensive movie tickets are these days? In fact, starting this Friday, prices are going up as much as 26 percent! So an individual shouldn't inform themselves by reading a trusted critic before forking over $50 for four tickets for his family? His statement only makes sense if movies were free. Which they are for me, but I have to write about them, one way or another, to pay my rent -- and this is what Smith doesn't like. It's a vicious cycle.
I mentioned that Smith is halfway respected. That may be an overstatement at this point. Again, the guy had (and still does) have some good ideas about film, but his irrational Twitter rants -- which have been relentlessly broken down across the Internet -- and his recent campaign against Southwest Airlines (for making him buy a second seat because of his size) has him coming across as a bit buffoonish. There's a fine line between perception as an eccentric artist and a loon. Unfortunately for Smith, box-office receipts have a lot to do with this perception. He may want to consider using less of his time lashing out at critics and more time making films that are actually good -- because the perception that he's a good filmmaker is fading.