Last weekend, a new film premiered called "Letters to God." A title can't be more explicit about its plot. It's a movie about a 9-year-old soccer-crazy boy stricken with cancer, and the inspiring letters he writes each day to God. It's about prayer -- certainly not a favorite topic for secular, sybaritic Hollywood.When movie critics at major newspapers and magazines sat down to watch the movie, the splashing sound you heard was the vomit hitting the floor.
It's an understatement to say that other limited-release films with artier pedigrees draw broader attention from the cinematic cognoscenti. Permit me a little math, courtesy of the website Metacritic.com, which assembles the major movie reviewers. Check out these examples:
1. "The Ghost Writer," the latest movie from child-molesting director Roman Polanski, now under house arrest in Switzerland. This amoral slug drew rave reviews from 35 media outlets Metacritic considers prestigious. "This old man who can't leave the house has just made the first important film of 2010," spewed Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle. "In Polanski's hands, it's an unholy pleasure," wrote Ty Burr in the Boston Globe. I'm not sure his 13-year-old rape victim would agree.
2. "Greenberg," a movie starring Ben Stiller as a fortysomething loser, directed by critical darling Noah Baumbach, had 37 major-media reviews listed. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly cooed, "Baumbach's movies are addictive dispatches from a genteel jungle of white privilege, where highly educated people behave badly." That sounds like a convention of movie reviewers.
3. "The Runaways," based on the real-life rock band starring soon-to-be-famous Joan Jett and her "sex kitten" friend Cherie Currie. It's rated R "for language, drug use and sexual content -- all involving teens." In other words, it's a surefire Roman Polanski favorite. It's in less than 250 theaters, the director is a rookie, but it still earned 35 major-media reviews. Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post praised it as "A soaring, sympathetic ode to the outlaws, subversives and insurgents who occupy the edges of popular culture, making them safe for everyone else's dreams."