Movie Article

Sentimental Journeys

Why has ''sentimental'' become a four-letter word? Check out the latest Ask the Critic questions and post your own

Robin Williams, Patch Adams | HONK IF YOU HATE ME Patch 's Williams
Image credit: Patch Adams: Melinda Sue Gordon
HONK IF YOU HATE ME Patch's Williams

Why has ''sentimental'' become a four-letter word?

I know there are ''good'' sentimental films like E.T. and ''bad'' sentimental films like Patch Adams, but I don't know why this is so. Why has ''sentimental'' become a four-letter word? — Greg Bavaria
There's nothing wrong with honestly earned feeling — some of my favorite movies of all time are sentimental spectaculars from the 1940s, including Casablanca, Brief Encounter, and Now, Voyager. It's the five-letter condition called S-A-P-P-Y that has become the bane of too many cynically sentimental films. E.T. beautifully expresses a universal desire for connection. Patch Adams intrusively insists that an obnoxious doctor played by a voraciously needy Robin Williams is lovable.

What movie did you dread reviewing, only to discover it was actually great? — Gary Crowl
Dread is too strong a word — I save that feeling for releases with Pokémon in the title. But some great movies are preceded by billows of bad buzz. Titanic is the most titanic recent example, but for me The Aviator is also a triumph of art over skepticism.

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Originally posted Feb 14, 2005 Published in issue #807 Feb 18, 2005 Order article reprints