Lisa Schwarzbaum
November 03, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

Fake ”feel good” movies talk down to audiences

You thought you had heard the last from me about ”Pay It Forward”? Nah. How could I not respond to the lively torrent of mail from readers, many of whom are angered by my negative review — continued in a recent Hot Topic — of a movie they found ”brilliant and important,” a movie that ”tugs at America’s emotional heartstrings,” and that ”was powerful and had the perfect ending”?

How could I not be moved by the passion of strangers who call me ”a cynical old hag,” or who imagine that I kick dogs, steal candy from babies, and have never done anything nice for anyone in my whole miserable life? ”Do you know what Midol is?” one reader asks, a weirdly dated notion of female trouble that’s all the more troubling because it came from a woman.

You hate me, you really hate me!

Of course, I knew that review and D grade would evoke response: I stated my case provocatively, encouraging argument, because I think there are few recreational activities more stimulating — especially for EW and EW.com readers — than a good movie argument. Liking a film or hating it, agreeing with a critic or disagreeing, are all part of the thrill of the moviegoing experience. I’m struck, though, by the confusion evidently experienced by some, who equated an unpopular opinion with bad character. To them — to you — here are three points to think about, argue about, and get nuts about all over again this weekend.

1. It’s ironic, is it not, that folks who claim to find ”Pay It Forward” so uplifting, and such an inspiration to do good toward others, can react to a movie review with hatred so personally directed.

2. It’s disingenuous, is it not, for readers who were given three fair warnings about the inclusion of spoiler information — two of those warnings IN VERY LOUD CAPITAL LETTERS — to take no responsibility for choosing to read on.

3. It’s worth considering, is it not, that while tearjerkers, ”feel good” flicks, and stories that tug on America’s emotional heartstrings are fine, classic staples of cinema, WE THE MOVIEGOERS have a right to demand that those tears be jerked from us honestly, by productions that talk up to our intelligence, rather than preach and pander. One galling assumption of ”Pay It Forward” is that the whole notion of doing good deeds for others is such a novelty that death and media coverage are required to kick us into action.

I prefer to think that WE THE MOVIEGOERS are in fact more generous, more thoughtful, more regularly involved in volunteering and charitable activities, and more capable of everyday kindness than show offy false piety like ”Pay It Forward” can bear to admit. I also think ”Remember the Titans” underestimates audience intelligence when it comes to appreciating our nation’s struggle toward racial equality, and that ”The Legend of Bagger Vance” blows a lot of smoke about ”finding your authentic swing.” But that, as dogs and babies instinctively know, is just me.

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