;Ryan Reynolds presents a conundrum: Critics universally loathe every movie he's been in while simultaneously regarding him as an exceptional comic actor who should already be a member of the A-list. Like disapproving parents, said critics shake their heads every time the actor releases a new pic and fail to deliver the praise he most certainly covets. It's beginning to seem as if they are targeting the actor, torpedoing his movies before they even have a chance to sucker in audiences.

;;Consider this: In 2005, at a Beverly Hills screening of Waiting …, a packed room of critics laughed harder and louder than this journalist has ever witnessed at such an event. In fact, when the room emptied, many of these critics were quoting lines and citing scenes that were still making them laugh. One guy actually looked like he was about to choke.


;Then everyone went home and wrote their reviews.


;Waiting … earned a whopping 31 percent average rating on It ;didn't matter how much the critics enjoyed the movie, you understand. It just wasn't OK to give a Ryan Reynolds movie a good review.

;;Just Friends was released the following month. The movie, which clearly wanted nothing more than to be pop candy for the masses, managed to provide a few characters with real emotional depth while serving up more laughs than Waiting …. It was also dismissed by critics: a 42 percent on

;;Shortly after Just Friends was released, this conversation took place between two critics based in Los Angeles:


;Critic No. 1: It's too bad it did so poorly at the box office. I really thought this was going to be the one that put Reynolds on the map.

;;Critic No. 2: What did you think of it?

;;Critic No. 1: I thought it was good, yeah. I always love his movies.

;;This same critic panned the movie on his website. Apparently, he just wasn't able to admit that he liked a Ryan Reynolds movie to a readership that might judge him for it. This is the problem. Artistic criticism, like politics, has become extremely polarized. If anti-intellectualism is the far right, then the cultural elitism demonstrated by critics represents the far left. "You can't be smart and like Ryan Reynolds" is the message you should take away from this practice.


;Now, this discussion is not meant to posit a reflexive notion that Reynolds' movies are cinematic genius. Truth be told, most of his work has been pedestrian. His schtick is why producers hire him, and that schtick seems to be the juxtaposition of his sculpted abs with his remarkable comic timing. Oh, he's got these sensitive eyes, too; they say he's more than just a big dumb galoot, that you can have the body and a big heart, too. Then there's his ability to make any ho-hum line hilarious by elongating syllables like a less obnoxious Jim Carrey. But the actor doesn't know how to choose projects. Or maybe he doesn't have access to the projects that could catapult him into that A-list club.


;Van Wilder was terrible and offensive (the éclair scene, anyone?). On the other hand, The In-Laws was relatively good. It even had Michael Douglas in it, nevertheless, it bombed. Blade: Trinity was the worst of a blah trilogy, but, Reynolds' Hannibal King was the best part of it. The Amityville Horror was damned scary, though not for the right reasons.

;;Coming out this week: Smokin' Aces, an ensemble crime flick directed by Joe Carnahan (Narc) and starring half the entertainment world. Smokin' Aces is currently suffering from an anemic Tomatometer of 27 percent. If Reynolds weren't in Aces, it would probably enjoy much greater critical approval, no matter how bad it is.


;Reynolds presence in a film seems to guarantee negative reviews. He has become box-office poison because critics love him, but hate the movies he's in. So many viewers enjoy his movies, though, that the contradiction is illogical. It's more likely that critics love Reynolds, but hate him for being everything they are usually not: great-looking, funny and smart.


;Fan demands have led to industry rumors that Reynolds could be cast as the Flash in DC Comics' next attempt at a super-hero franchise. With him in it, the movie will probably be a critical bomb. Then again, it'll probably make a boatload of cash, too. With that kind of financial credibility, maybe Reynolds will finally get the great roles even critics can't ignore.


More by Cole Haddon


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