Movie Article

Offensive Play

The difference between a bad movie and an offensive one. Lisa Schwarzbaum answers reader mail and lets you post your own questions

Haley Joel Osment, Pay It Forward | 'FORWARD' THINKING Haley Joel Osment learns to ''Play'' it horrid
Image credit: Pay it Forward: David James
'FORWARD' THINKING Haley Joel Osment learns to ''Play'' it horrid

The difference between a bad movie and an offensive one

What's the difference between a movie that's simply bad and one that truly offends? -- Rosalie Rippey
I've cut off your terrific question before the part where you cite my review of ''Mona Lisa Smile'' as an example of something I've criticized as the latter. By my standards, a bad movie simply and honestly sucks in concept (''Garfield: The Movie''), execution (''Troy''), or a whammo combination of both (''The Chronicles of Riddick''). An offensive movie, on the other hand, glosses over its flaws with a varnish of self-righteous moralizing that leaves a sucker thinking that he or she has been taught a valuable, high-toned life lesson and that to discredit the teaching tool demonstrates ingratitude (''Life is Beautiful''), reflects a faulty values system (''Pay it Forward''), or suggests the critic is, in fact, a bitch (''Mona Lisa Smile''). Sometimes this kind of offense can be attributed to a condition known as ''Patch Adams'' fever.

(Got a movie-related question for Lisa or Owen? Post it here.)

Originally posted Jul 30, 2004 Published in issue #776 Jul 30, 2004 Order article reprints
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