10 March 2004

Ebert understands what a review should do

Okay, I'm never going forgive him for his positive review of Spawn. But Roger Ebert really understands that while it's often helpful for him to tell you whether or not he liked the movie, the point is to do so in service of making clear whether or not the reader will like the movie. On the way, he often offers you a witticism, an observation about life or art, encouragement to try something different from your usual movie fare, or some insight into how movies work. But helping you judge whether you will like a picture comes first.

Consider his recent review of Hidalgo.

This is a movie that has: Concealed pits in the sand with sharpened stakes at the bottom; exotic sprawling villas made with corridors and staircases and balconies and rooftops where countless swordsmen can leap forward to their doom; sandstorms that can be outrun by a horse like Hidalgo; tents as large and elaborately furnished as a Malcolm Forbes birthday party; blazing closeups of the pitiless sun; poisoned oases; tantalizing mirages; parched lips; six-shooters, whips, daggers, and ... no, I don't think there were any asps. Some will complain that Hidalgo magically arrives on the scene whenever Hopkins whistles, but Hidalgo knows that if he could whistle, Hopkins would be right there for him, too.

I have done my duty. Not a moviegoer alive will be able to attend Hidalgo and claim that I have not painted an accurate portrait of the film.

Whether you like movies like this, only you can say. But if you do not have some secret place in your soul that still responds even a little to brave cowboys, beautiful princesses and noble horses, then you are way too grown up and need to cut back on cable news. And please ignore any tiresome scolds who complain that the movie is not really based on fact. Duh.

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