Few things in the film world can top the pleasure of reading a well-written, wiltingly bad review (one of them being the well-written ecstatic review, a rarer creature). Gleefully demolishing a film is a critic’s chance to trot out their inner Dorothy Parker (Anthony Lane’s managed to make a career on this basis), and it’s far easier to mock than it is to praise without sounding soundbite-ish. On this count, Roger Ebert had a stellar week last week, with the chance to tear into "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" and exploitation flick "Chaos," both of which he gave that oh-so-coveted "Zero stars" to.
"Deuce Bigalow" is aggressively bad, as if it wants to cause suffering to the audience. The best thing about it is that it runs for only 75 minutes.
As much as we have no intention of ever going near this film, we find ourselves almost wanting to defend it from this review, because it’s set the bar so fantastically low for itself that any attempt to criticize it seems petty. Does anyone who buys a ticket for "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" care what critics think of it? As if sensing this, Ebert devotes most of the review to Rob Schneider‘s infamous open letter to the LA Times‘ Patrick Goldstein, in which Schneider took issue with a cheap joke Goldstein made at Schneider’s expense and paid to put out a petty, funny response ad in Variety in which he mocked Goldstein (incorrectly) for not having won any awards, nary a Pulitzer or a Cable Ace Award. Ebert:
Schneider is correct, and Patrick Goldstein has not yet won a Pulitzer Prize. Therefore, Goldstein is not qualified to complain that Columbia financed "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" while passing on the opportunity to participate in "Million Dollar Baby," "Ray," "The Aviator," "Sideways" and "Finding Neverland." As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks.
Ooh, snap, Roger! Except, well, why bother your award-winning self? This ain’t no Vincent Gallo feud. If you really want to defend respectable journalists from the likes of certain belligerent comedians, maybe next time you drive by Rob Schneider on the street you could ball your Pulitzer certificate up and throw it at him. There’s a gesture to appreciate.
The "Chaos" review is far more perturbed and far less snarky. "There are two scenes so gruesome I cannot describe them in a newspaper, no matter what words I use. Having seen it, I cannot ignore it, nor can I deny that it affected me strongly: I recoiled during some of the most cruel moments, and when the film was over I was filled with sadness and disquiet." We feel that, by leaving them undescribed, he’s unavoidably going to make people naggingly curious, that same urge that drives us to sit through to the end of Catherine Breillat movies. If you’ll allow us to take that mystery away: one girl is stabbed multiple times in the back, then anally raped as she’s dying. The other is raped with a large knife. There. If you need to watch an splattery exploitation flick, rent a Miike movie, this one isn’t worth your time.
Also up this week on RogerEbert.com, a run-through of choice quotes from reviews of films Ebert gave 1.5 stars or less to. We’re particularly fond of this one, on the topic of Halle Berry career highlight "B.A.P.S.":
The movie doesn’t work, but was there any way this material could ever have worked? My guess is that African Americans will be offended by the movie, and whites will be embarrassed. The movie will bring us all together, I imagine, in paralyzing boredom.