Lisa Schwarzbaum
September 05, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

An EW critic on movies made for laughs, not Oscars

Are you harsher in your criticism of a film that strives for greatness and misses than of a film that strives for mediocrity and succeeds? — Rich Aroian
Whoa. Allow me to free-associate on your excellent question. I’m always grateful for a goal of greatness; it’s phony movie notions of how greatness is supposed to look that make me despair. (That’s why I’m so hard on ”The Hours.”) Conversely, mediocrity is mediocrity, however well executed — but a finely made Farrelly brothers movie is a thing of beauty.

If you give a movie an F, does that mean it has absolutely no redeeming qualities — or just that it isn’t worth the price of admission? — Jamie D. Heine
Ah, Jamie, return on investment at the multiplex is a far more subjective transaction than any grade can predict: One critic’s stinker is another ironist’s happy ”Showgirls” (or ”Gigli”?) experience. A lack of any redeeming qualities — or no damn reason to exist — is a far more reliable interpretation of an F.

Send questions to askthecritic@ew.com, or post them below.

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