Why do grades seem randomly grounded in ''reality''? Check out this week's Ask the Critic question and post your own

By Owen Gleiberman
Updated September 06, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Why do grades seem randomly grounded in ”reality”?

Why do critics apply the same standards differently? For one film, a critic will complain that the plot is unrealistic. For another, he’ll admit the lack of realism but love the movie anyway. —Tegan

Are you trying to ask, as so many others have: How could I have trashed Little Miss Sunshine for its paint-by-numbers realism yet handed out far better reviews to such brain-dead comedies as The Benchwarmers and Little Nicky and You, Me and Dupree? Easy: Those movies — and countless others — barely pretend to be taking place in the real world. That doesn’t mean that they’re automatically funny, but it does mean that they’re aiming for a kind of stylized gonzo slapstick-surreal idiocy. Their imbecilic spirit is embedded in their form. Little Miss Sunshine, by contrast, is trying to be an intimate comedy of family manners. It’s far from a throwaway (if anything, it raises the bar), but there, in a strange way, is the problem: If the characters don’t ring true, how can we be seduced, or amused, by the film’s comedic observations about them?

(Got a movie-related question for Lisa or Owen? Post it here.)

Little Miss Sunshine

  • Movie
  • R
  • 99 minutes
  • Jonathan Dayton
  • Valerie Faris