Is a mediocre movie worse when made by a great director? Check out today's Ask the Critic question and post your own

By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated August 01, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Is a mediocre movie worse when made by a great director?

Is a mediocre movie worse when it’s made by a great director? — Scarlett

What a deceptively straight-forward question! (You’re not Ms. Johansson, are you, pre-emptively responding to my review on this page?) On the one hand, a mediocre movie stands — or wobbles — on its own puny merits: Scoop, let’s say, is no worse because it’s from Woody Allen than it would be if it were made by, oh, the aim-for-the-middle crew that made Click. Or Little Man. Blah is blah no matter who’s calling ”Action!”

On the other hand, it’s naive to think that a filmmaker’s reputation (for comic originality, for ghost-story prowess) doesn’t raise the stakes when you watch the new work of a director who has previously wowed you. Anyhow, the really interesting conjecture happens once you get past words like ”worse.” Why did Mr. Allen serve such stale crumbs for dessert after Match Point? Is Mr. Shyamalan enacting a wish to drown with Lady in the Water? My answers: (1) skittishness; (2) yes.

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