‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ and 9 Other Movies Audiences Loved But Critics Hated

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‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ and 9 Other Movies Audiences Loved But Critics Hated
‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ and 9 Other Movies Audiences Loved But Critics Hated


Some films are infamous for the fault lines they’ve created between audiences and professional reviewers. Are the proles too easy a crowd? Are critics just snobs who don’t know how to have a good time? Does it simply boil down to a numbers game? After all, people willing to post a star-rating and a blurb exceed the volume of critical reviews by several orders of magnitude.

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But that doesn’t quite solve the equation. After all, critical and popular reception coincide remarkably often, even when there’s an enormous difference between how many from each group are providing feedback on a given film. Whatever the math is, Rotten Tomatoes is an insightful measure of the differences—and similarities—between distinct cohorts of movie lovers.


‘Armageddon’ (1998) – Tomatometer (38%); Audience Score (73%)

Bruce Willis stars as the leader of an oil drilling crew that’s recruited by NASA to save Earth from being annihilated by a meteor. Anyone who’s ever seen a disaster thriller knows that the sensational plot is just a pretext for characters to confront their personal shortcomings and reach catharsis with one another, which here involves Willis’ character learning to accept his daughter’s (Liv Tyler) romantic relationship with a young hotshot (Ben Affleck) on his crew.

Poor critical reception certainly didn’t hamper Armageddon’s performance at the box office. After premiering in the middle of summer, the crowd-pleaser finished the year as 1998’s top earner. This guilty pleasure remains a fan favorite and has even gained a few apologists among film journalists.

‘Big Daddy’ (1999) – Tomatometer (39%); Audience Score (74%)

Sonny (Adam Sandler) is content to coast through life and play video games with his delivery man (Rob Schneider) until a wake-up call in the form of a five-year-old boy (Dylan and Cole Sprouse) nudges this charismatic slacker toward adulthood. Paul Thomas Anderson, one of the film’s most eminent fans, has discussed basing his decision to cast Sandler in Punch-Drunk-Love on the live-wire performance the comedian gives in this film.

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This divide can’t be chalked up to Sandler’s popularity with the public. Audience scores for later Happy Madison productions, like Jack and Jilland That’s My Boy, demonstrate that affection for the Sandman doesn’t override bad screenwriting. Competently shot, endlessly quotable, and featuring a killer soundtrack, Big Daddyis obviously superior to the phoned-in mishaps that came later in the star’s career.

‘Coyote Ugly’ (2000) – Tomatometer (23%); Audience Score (71%)

A classic fish-out-of-water story, Coyote Ugly is about a gifted songwriter (Piper Perabo) whose dreams of finding fame in the Big Apple don’t quite pan out the way she expects. After landing a job at a popular bar and befriending its owner (Maria Bello), she gets a crash course in live entertainment.

The movie was critically reviled upon release but given an A- Cinemascore by general filmgoers. Initially called exploitative softcore porn, Coyote Ugly has been re-contextualized as a movie about female empowerment and a culturally significant portrait of the late ‘90s/early aughts.

‘Next Friday’ (2000) – Tomatometer (21%); Audience Score (76%)

Next Friday picks up with Craig Jones (Ice Cube) just as Deebo (Tommy Lister Jr.) has escaped prison to exact vengeance for the events of 1995’s Friday. Craig’s father sends him to live with his uncle and cousin, but trouble, of course, follows. While critics responded favorably to the original, they absolutely panned this sequel, calling it bland and aimless.

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Audiences, on the other hand, gladly followed Craig and company on another stoned misadventure. Next Friday and the franchise’s third entry, Friday After Next, both have high audience scores. A fourth, Last Friday, is currently awaiting release.

‘How High’ (2001) – Tomatometer (26%); Audience Score (79%)

Stoners Silas and Jamal (Method Man and Redman) get into Harvard after scoring exceptionally well on their SATs under the influence of a supernatural strain. This comedy of manners derives laughs from the cultural clash between the two underachievers and the privileged, uptight student body.

The Rotten Tomatoes consensus–based on only 57 reviews–calls this one lame, vulgar, and high on its own supply, but among the film’s more than 50,000 audience reviews, you’ll find many that call How Highone of the greatest comedies of all time. Thisis a bona fide cult classic.

‘Life Itself’ (2018) – Tomatometer (13%); Audience Score (83%)

Three love stories intertwine across space and time in Life Itself, a meta-narrative starring Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Sigourney Weaver, and Antonio Banderas. The melodrama is reminiscent of your average Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Those aren’t considered highbrow but still draw a certain and under-catered demographic’s attention.

It’s also possible that Dan Fogelman’s brand of multigenerational storytelling just really resonates with audiences, who gave Life Itself a solid B+ Cinemascore. Critics, on the other hand, found the This is Usproducer’s transition from television to film to be an awkwardly paced exercise in transcendentalist schmaltz.

‘Super Troopers’ (2001) – Tomatometer (36%); Audience Score (90%)

Faced with obsolescence, a highway patrol unit gets up to all sorts of shenanigans while competing with local police for state funding. A murder connected to a drug shipment gives these underestimated troopers a chance to prove their department isn’t a redundancy on the state’s balance sheet.

Super Troopers is loved and hated for the same reason–its unabashed silliness. If you want a meme-able comedy that’s full of lines you can quote with your friends, this workplace satire might just be your jam. Critics, though, are probably not evaluating the film’s quality by that criteria. As juvenile as Super Troopers may be, it does manage to sneak in some valuable points about bad incentives in law enforcement. Sometimes the broadest comedies deliver the sharpest social critiques.

‘Underworld’ (2003) – Tomatometer (31%); Audience Score (79%)

Kate Beckinsale is perhaps best known for playing a vampire in the Underworld series. The original follows her disillusionment with an organization that’s hunting down Lycans, an ancient breed of werewolf, after she meets Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), a genetically anomalous medical student.

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Critics didn’t care for this moody, London-set thriller about warring vampires and werewolves, but Underworld made more than four times its budget and spawned a moderately successful franchise. Audiences and professional reviewers also disagreed over the sequel, Underworld: Evolution (Tomatometer: 17%; Audience Score: 72%), and the series’ subsequent entries have similarly posted divergent approval ratings.

‘Venom’ (2018) – Tomatometer (30%); Audience Score (80%)

Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is a hapless journalist whose life is turned upside down when he becomes host to an alien symbiote. Brock uses his body’s new abilities to battle a megalomaniacal CEO (Riz Ahmed) trying to play God and alter the human genome.

Like Transformers and Jurassic World, Venomis a property that’s never going to need critics on its side. Sony’s success with its second-tier Marvel property led to a sequel, Let There Be Carnage, that made less money but still posted massive numbers for a pandemic-era release. It even fared better on the Tomatometer (though with fewer reviews).

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ (2022) – Tomatometer (34%); Audience Score (96%)

After the body of a local football star is discovered in a swamp, the townsfolk of Barkley Cove, North Carolina are all too eager to vilify the Marsh Girl, a young woman named Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) who’s lived her entire life in isolation. While critics haven’t received the big-screen adaptation of Delia Owens’ best-selling novel fondly, calling it flat and uninspired, the public has been far kinder. Fans of Nicholas Sparks dramas no doubt comprise some of the film’s staggeringly high audience score. The numbers may change, as this is still a new release.

Costing $24 million to make, the movie has thus far earned $79 million at the box office–a greater return on investment than Thor: Love and Thunder’s $705 mil. against a $250 mil. budget. Where the Crawdads Sing may not be one of summer 2022’s highest grossing—or critically acclaimed—films, but it is among the season’s most profitable.

KEEP READING: Notable Divides Between Audience and Critic Scores On Rotten Tomatoes


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