Sunday, June 19, 2011

When the Worst Isn’t Actually Bad

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

I just watched “Jersey Girl” for the first time (the one Kevin Smith did, not the more recent one). I think everyone agrees that “Jersey Girl” is Kevin Smith’s worst movie, and I’m inclined to agree. But it’s a good movie, and thus, I have a column to write.

Kevin Smith has always been good natured about the failure that “Jersey Girl” was with his fans, and I think it’s been a good move that on a least a few occasions he has basically said something like: Seriously though, it’s a good movie that just wasn’t received well.

It’s weird because it’s about as good as any lighthearted romantic comedy, and pretty well as formulaic as one. The major “twist” in the basic plot is that it’s more about the love of father and daughter, and the actual romantic love between the widowed father and his new girlfriend is secondary. It’s almost even third billing to the love of father and father storyline.

There’s a book called “About a Boy” by Nick Hornby, and it was a great book. It was later made into a pretty good movie starring Hugh Grant. “Jersey Girl” was similar in some regards, as it was about a grown man growing up, by relating to a young person.

I think if anyone else had made “Jersey Girl” it would have been largely dismissed the way it was anyway, but it wouldn’t be considered as a bad movie the way it is because it wasn’t “Jay and Silent Bob Chasing Rat Clerks at the Mall, Dawg, Mah Dawg.” This is what I call the “The Division Bell” Syndrome.

You see, in 1995, Pink Floyd released their final album with new material (that I know of) “The Division Bell.” It was better than most albums that were released that year, and yet for long term Pink Floyd fans, it was a little bit of a let down.

“Jersey Girl” is to Kevin Smith what “Jackie Brown” was to Quentin Tarantino. It’s that movie that wasn’t as well received as it should have been because it wasn’t quite as good as what came before. Though to be fair, “Jackie Brown” was way better than “Jersey Girl.”

Here’s what I think failed about “Jersey Girl.” The first so many minutes of the movie, I was laughing somewhat frequently, and then it got pretty heavy-handed, as it had to, given the plot. Then for whatever reason, the rest of the movie never got back its comedic edge. There were funny parts, but they just weren’t as funny as they should have been to keep the movie from being a little boring.

On a different note, I recently watched the DVD that came with the new Duran Duran album, “All You Need Is Now.” This does tie in believe it or not. It was the oddest thing to watch them talking about the album in a way that basically said that “We’ve sucked since 1993, but we think we finally got it right with this album.” They weren’t that blunt about it, but I found it disconcerting. It’s almost like they’re letting album sales define how good an album was.

The truth is that their albums are all great, except “Thank You,” which was an album of cover songs. It was good though. It was to Duran Duran what “Jersey Girl” was to Kevin Smith, except that somehow to those who aren’t hardcore fans every album except their 1993 album has been that way, so who knows.

To be fair to Duran Duran, one of them did make a statement that was more or less, we know we’ve written good albums, but not commercially successful. The statement was something to the effect of: We were too busy thinking we should be progressing as a band rather than being the band that we were.

I just don’t use sales as a gauge when it comes to entertainment media. I really don’t care how a movie or album did commercially. I just care whether I liked it. My favourite Duran Duran album came out in 1998, being “Medazzaland,” and honestly, I still think that “Red Carpet Massacre” is the best of their last four albums, and is considered to be the least “Duran Duran” Duran Duran album ever released. It’s been criticized as being Timbaland presents Duran Duran. Eh, fuck the naysayers.

The statement about Duran Duran progressing as band was made in a tone that sounded like, “That was our mistake.” But the truth is that it’s the fault of the buying public. People fear progress sometimes, even when it’s good for them. They like Duran Duran, but they want to hear “Rio” not “Liberty.”

If I have a point here (and I’m doubting that I do), it’s that if you are a fan of someone’s work, you should give most of what they do a chance, even if it was well received by the public. Well received by the public doesn’t always equal good, just as not well received by the public doesn’t always equal bad.

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