Excellent or Fun
So I read a post on the blog of Konrad West this morning, in which he reviews "King Kong". In the course of the review, he says that he likes a film if it is "excellent or fun" (he thought that "King Kong" worked much better as the latter).
But this is an idea that is almost perfect in its simplicity. Excellent, or fun.
This is why people go to the movies, on a base level. Either because they think they are going to be entertained (or even scared, which I think "fun" can be stretched to include) or because they think that they are going to see something excellent.
"Brokeback Mountain" doesn't look like much fun. Neither does "Munich". But if people think they are excellent enough, they will go.
And some balance is important, too. Certain movies shouldn't be too much fun; Superman III wasn't improved by the decision to add Richard Pryor and a lot of silly humor, while Superman IV went the other way, trying to be too earnest and excellent. (Not coincidentally, word is that the new Superman movie takes up after Superman II, and pretends that the next two never happened).
The problem with Hollywood is that "fun" is, on many levels, easier to do than "excellent". Because if you're trying to do "excellent" without any "fun" at all, and you fall short of "excellent", you get something like "Memoirs of a Geisha", which doesn't look like it is going to find much of an audience at all.
Or "The Terminal", which worked better in its first half, when it is fun, than in its second, when it goes for "excellent" and just gets gloppy.
So Hollywood tends to err on the side of "fun". Because even if something like "The Dukes of Hazzard" turns out to not have much on the "excellent" scale, audiences will still come to see it, because it has the sheen of "fun", even if it doesn't quite deliver.
So it's something to consider when you are writing your script. Because if you're not writing something that is "fun", or particularly "excellent" (or better yet, the rare combination of the two), you'd better ask yourself where it is falling short.
Opening today is "Fun With Dick and Jane". In case the use of the word "fun" in the title isn't enough of a grabber, the ad also plasters the word "FUN" on top of the ad (at least here, in the LA Times).
Because even if the movie doesn't get good reviews (and the real sign it's a stinker comes from the fact that it quotes the ever-dubious Earl Dittman of Wireless Magazine in the ad), people will go see it, because it looks like it's.... fun. At least until word of mouth tells them that it isn't.
Though who knows? It might be fun enough to survive even that.