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Marlon Wayans On Critics: "You Guys Have Got a Thumb Up Your Ass"

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by Matt Singer
May 6, 2013 2:06 PM
9 Comments
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"A Haunted House."

If the numbers on Box Office Mojo are accurate, "A Haunted House" cost just $2.5 million to make. For that $2.5 million, plus an indeterminate marketing spend, distributor Open Road got a $40.0 million return on investment. Not exactly a mega-blockbuster, but good enough to launch a new comedy franchise; Open Road already announced "A Haunted House 2" coming in the spring of 2014. Three days ago, they even released the sequel's first teaser poster

"A Haunted House" earned all that money with basically zero support from film critics; the movie wasn't screened in advanced for reviewers, and when they finally got a look at it they weren't exactly enthused. In the end, the movie received just two positive reviews out of more than thirty posted at Rotten Tomatoes; at our own Criticwire Network, eight critics gave it an average grade of a D (on the bright side, it passed!). There were enough severely negative to reviews to fill one of our occasional Barbed Wire columns. "Where do jokes go to die?" quipped Eric Walkuski from JoBlo.com. "'A Haunted House.'" Ouch.

"A Haunted House" starred and was produced and co-written by Marlon Wayans. This was not his first bad report card from critics. To put this in perspective: over a more than 20 year career in movies, Wayans has appeared in just a single (1) film that current holds a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, 2000's "Requiem For a Dream." The rest, including "The 6th Man," "Dungeons & Dragons," "Scary Movie," "The Ladykillers," "White Chicks," "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" and more, not so much.

Down in Australia promoting "A Haunted House"'s local release, Wayans was asked for his opinion of film critics and their often unkind view of his work. Here's what he told Luke Buckmaster of the Australian website Crikey about whether he cares about negative reviews:

"I don’t give a shit. After 'White Chicks' I gave up on reviewers. I was just like, whatever. Whatever you guys want to say. I look at 'White Chicks' and it gets one and a half stars and I’m looking at the audience and I’m hearing the thunderous laughter. I’m just going, you know what, you guys have got a thumb up your ass. You have a fist. It’s a fist up your arse and I’m not going to fight you on it. Just enjoy it and I’m not going to fight you on it. Their opinions are their opinions and I’m not mad at them. The only time they give great reviews is when you do a movie for them. Critics like, I guess, smarter comedy. Scatalogical comedy and weed jokes don’t work for them."

Wayans does say he's not mad at critics. He doesn't wish them ill for giving his movies bad reviews (beyond, y'know, continuing discomfort from sitting on their various appendages). He does actually sound like he's made peace with negative notices and doesn't care too much about them.

That said, are critics really only interested in "smarter comedy?" Typically, when I hear a filmmaker say that critics don't matter because audiences love their work, what I really hear is "Why try hard when aiming low works just fine?" Still, this would be an interesting thing to investigate on Rotten Tomatoes and our Criticwire Network; compare the scores in, say, a calendar year for all the quote-unquote high-brow and low-brow comedies. Would we find that critics favor the smart to the stupid? We very well might. 

Then again, we might find that critics favor the smart in the stupid. There is a way to do dumb comedy intelligently. What Marlon Wayans makes is not terribly different than what Mel Brooks has made for decades; satires, spoofs, and parodies of genre conventions and stereotypes. You could hardly say that critics don't "get" Mel Brooks. Generally, his best movies -- "Blazing Saddles," "The Producers," "Young Frankenstein" -- have received good reviews.

Then again then again, "Spaceballs," "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," and "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" are all rated rotten on Rotten Tomatoes. "Dracula: Dead and Loving It"'s rating -- a 9%! -- seems especially low (and due for a defense by some guy with two thumbs and a blog called Criticwire). So Wayans might actually have a point. 

"When you’re doing comedy the only thing that’s truly important is that people laugh," says Wayans. He's right.

Read more of "'You Guys Have Got a Thumb Up Your Ass:' Interview With Marlon Wayans, Writer/Star of 'A Haunted House.'"

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More: Marlon Wayans, Critics Versus Filmmakers

9 Comments

  • Kathy | May 9, 2013 9:59 PMReply

    Yet, their movies are VERY funny. They have me GASPING for breath every time I see them over and over again. Even with the Next Generation Wayans in Dance Flick, it was incredibly awesome. Furthermore, I just think they're mixing up the Wayans Franchise with ZUCKER franchise. Even though he looks up to the Wayans, he will never be able to grasp the essence that makes us Laugh Out Loud. Even though we love the Shawn and Marlon Duo. It was nice to see where most of the "What the hell?" Jokes came from. Like, really out of the box. I enjoyed the movie, especially the bit where Marlon got screwed in the butt and the "Herpes" Scene. It was very funny. I was a bit shocked when I saw the IMBD and saw the rating was a 3.5/10. Let's be serious. This is Pure Unbridled Comedy from one of the Great Quads. Keenan has produced great movies. Damon, My Wife and Kids. Shawn and Marlon. Everything else in between. We love them and as the older things get you can't expect them to have the same juice as to when they were younger. But, they're still funny. No matter how effed up their thought process is.
    ~Kathy P.

  • Kari | May 9, 2013 9:35 PMReply

    It doesn't really matter what the critics say. I watch Shawn and Marlons movies because they're hilarious! I love everything they do. If you don't like it don't watch it.

  • Kari | May 9, 2013 9:35 PMReply

    It doesn't really matter what the critics say. I watch Shawn and Marlons movies because they're hilarious! I love everything they do. If you don't like it don't watch it.

  • Alisha allen | May 9, 2013 9:14 PMReply

    Way to go Marlon. I think you are doing a wonderful job and I would rate you an A+

  • C | May 9, 2013 9:06 PMReply

    Critics?
    And LIFE goes ON! Believes THAT!

  • jeftcg | May 6, 2013 9:45 PMReply

    I, too, believe Mr. Wayans has a valid point: there is an increasing disconnect between movies and critics.

    I also believe Mr. Wayans should consider that regardless the box-office pull, his movies do suck.

  • Donella | May 6, 2013 9:01 PMReply

    I saw A Haunted House in the theaters twice. Each time with a full house, mixed ethnicities, that roared with laughter. By the way, the first Scary Movie (made with the Wayans brothers) made $157,019,771 and $277,200,000 worldwide. The subsequent Scary Movies (wherein Weinstein Company wrestled creative input away from the Wayans) declined in quality and financial return. Marlon Wayans set out to prove a point to Weinstein Company and film critics, deliberately missed... that the Wayans family know comedy and even better know good comedy writing. Case in point... just compare A Haunted House to Scary Movie 5, both paranormal spoofs side-by-side and the differences become clear. So strange in the low-brow arena that the critics want to kick Wayans, but can't wait to drink Judd Apatow's bathwater.

  • bob | May 6, 2013 6:56 PMReply

    RT scores for White Chicks

    Critics - 15%
    Audience - 62%

    And the consensus is 'Scattershot comedy that's silly and obvious.' Hardly the worst crime for a comedy to commit?

    I think he has a valid point.

  • olli | May 7, 2013 7:15 AM

    Well, but you can assume that the audience reaction comes from an audience that already planned to see this movie, usually knowing what to expect.
    It would be interesting to know how the audience reaction would look like if it would come from an audience who saw the movie without any expectations...

    oh, by the way, I would rather watch paint dry than watching White Chicks ever again...

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