Someone put together a study for what films have the biggest discrepancy between audience and critic ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. The theory being that movies audiences like more than critics are underrated, and movies critics like more than audiences are overrated.
The underrated list is Facing the Giants, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Grandma’s Boy, Step Up, Because I Said So, Empire Records, A Night at the Roxbury, The Covenant, Madea’s Family Reunion, Raise Your Voice, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, Stomp the Yard, Bad Boys II, Camp Rock, and Super Troopers.
I think there’s a clear trend in this list. These are all niche movies that appeal to limited audiences, where it’s very clear to potential viewers ahead of time if this is the sort of movie they’ll like.
If you’re choosing to pay your hard-earned money to see Diary of a Mad Black Woman or Madea’s Family Reunion, it’s because you’re the kind of person who enjoys Tyler Perry Madea movies. If you see Step Up or Stomp the Yard, you like urban dance movies. If you see Bad Boys II, you like mindless action movies. If you see A Night at the Roxbury or Van Wilder, you like dumb comedies.
These are all movies that deliver exactly what they promise. What they promise isn’t something that appeals to most moviegoers. But it’s only the moviegoers who it does appeal to and see the movie that are posting their opinions on Rotten Tomatoes.
Whereas with critics, it’s their job to see every movie whether it’s to their taste or not. So they give bad reviews to the movies they never would have chosen to see if not for professional obligations.
The overrated list, where critics liked them more than the general public, is Spy Kids, 3 Backyards, Stuart Little 2, Momma’s Man, About a Boy, Essential Killing, Spy Kids 2, King Kong (2005), Splash, Sirens, Greenberg, Friends With Money, Freaky Friday (2003), Babe, and The Tailor of Panama.
I don’t see a clear pattern with that. The study’s author has some suggestions, none of which seem convincing to me. I’d be interested in some of your thoughts on why these movies are liked by critics more than audiences.