My review of Chris Packham’s review of my movie, How Sweet It Is
I realized that Chris Packham’s review maybe frustrated me the same way my movie frustrated him. I had a brainstorm: since he got a chance to review my movie, well, then, dammit, I’m going to review his review!
Our first review came in from The Village Voice and even though it was less-than-favorable, I was still pretty excited. I mean, The Village Voice! Not only are they a venerated institution, they’re the same people who own backpage.com! That’s where I go to hire all my … ahem. Let’s move on.
Reading Chris Packham’s review of my movie was a letdown, though, and not because it was critical. Listen, I started doing stand-up in Northeast Philly, I wrote for TV Squad, and I’m married to an Italian woman: I can take criticism. The pain receptors in my soul were burnt out a long time ago.
I was upset because the review was so … bad. I mean, it was a poorly-written review. Reviewing is something I know about, because over the course of four years at TV Squad, I churned out something like a quarter of a million words of television criticism. Not all of it was good — I remember a really tortured opening sentence that tried to draw a line from Mark McGwire’s 70 home-run season to an episode of Studio 60 that didn’t have Danny Trip in it — but I think my time there gave me some insight as to what good work looked like.
And Chris Packham’s review wasn’t good work.
This frustrated me. Then I realized that his review maybe frustrated me the same way my movie frustrated him. I had a brainstorm: since he got a chance to review my movie, well, then, dammit, I’m going to review his review!
Because, what else is does the Internet exist except for cat videos and endless, narcissistic recursion?
First, take a look at The Village Voice article in question.
And now, reprinted in its entirety from the comments section of the article and my own Facebook page, is my review of Mr. Packham’s review of my movie:
Mr. Packham’s review is a pull-quote in search of an actual analysis. Granted, “extraordinarily undistinguished” is the kind of almost-nonsense that grabs you immediately, but he doesn’t manage to expand on that point at all. What’s striking about this is that the lack of analysis isn’t a result of the small word count — though, to be fair, it doesn’t look like Mr. Packham had more than a few hundred words to work with — but because he felt the need to pad the review needlessly with an overly-long and overwrought lede sentence. The result? Mr. Packham spends literally half the review trying to find a clever way to say that Joe Piscopo is old.
It’s arguable, I suppose, that Mr. Packham didn’t have much else to say about the film — that it was so undistinguished that he couldn’t bring himself to analyze it and decided, instead, to try to whip up something dazzling for his mediabistro resume. Even if we were to accept that premise, what we’re left with is the onus of the analysis being on the reader. Mr. Packham, you want to shout, this is a freelance writing gig, not an English Lit seminar!
Towards the end of the review, Mr. Packham manages to make some light points about the necessity of farce to bring to it “unhinged commitment” and that How Sweet It Is somehow failed to do that. There’s a nugget of a good idea in there that’s left unexplored by the review’s unnecessary, distracting stylistic flourishes. Mr. Packham’s review screams to the world (or, more specifically, to editors with rent checks in their vest pockets), “Hey, look at me!”, but instead of doing so with clear and cutting analysis, he does so with belabored humor and wheel-spinning. One hundred a fifty words shouldn’t take this long to read.
GRADE: C MINUS.
In an ideal world, you will use the comments section to review this review of Mr. Packham’s review. And then, maybe, if Mr. Packham gets wind of this, he’ll maybe come here to CliqueClack and review your review of my review of his original review. And so on until Neo sets us all free from the Matrix.
Thanks for reading! And please, if you’re in New York, Los Angeles, or Northern New Jersey: go see How Sweet It Is!