Every year has them – the films that divide the audiences, and elicit only extreme responses of utter despise, or complete fascination. Even more frequently, these reactions are pretty equally split between critics and the audiences.
While there are some films that manage to completely bridge these “divides”, and stun both critics and moviegoers, while achieving a good box-office success, it is more frequent that we see movies completely trashed by critics whose success isn’t in the slightest derailed by that.
In this list, we look at films that were hated by critics, but liked by the audiences – the criteria that a film needed to pass to make the list is good box office success, and a large difference between the critics and audiences’ ratings.
1. The Art of Racing in the Rain
Even judging only by the synopsis, the first film is pretty obviously a critics’ pet peeve, but is it for a good reason? The Art of Racing in the Rain is adapted from a novel by Garth Stein, and its protagonist is a dying golden retriever, waiting for his owner to come home. Naturally, this sounds a little on the nose, and it doesn’t really get more subtle – the dog then proceeds to narrate his life, with Danny, a prospective professional race-driver (Milo Ventimiglia), and later, his wife Eve (Amanda Seyfried).
Things happen as they usually do in movies, and the couple welcomes a daughter, and then faces a serious illness, death, and an ensuing custody battle, which all pretty closely corresponds with a plot of made-for-TV movie. The dog also suffers health issues before dying, while the film introduces the old Mongolian belief that dogs are reincarnated as humans after they die. Without spoiling the film for anyone, it is pretty clear where this is going.
Naturally, critics found the film “sentimental and contrived”, as well as shamelessly emotionally manipulative. Others added that it seems predictably hell-bent on making the audience cry, and isn’t afraid to use clichés to accomplish this. Of course, the reviews aren’t all completely bad, some consider its predictability to be an asset in heightening the emotional impact, but the reception definitely differs from that of the audiences.
The film exceeded its projected opening weekend earnings, and seems to have found good footing with moviegoers who found it entertaining, well-done and heart-warming. Clearly, the audiences found the catharsis it offered a good return on their money – no wonder, as this is a formulaic film made to severely tug at people’s heartstrings, and allow them to have a good cry in the theater, and forget all about it the same day.
2. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged
This sequel to a seemingly more successful 2017 film 47 Meters Down essentially doesn’t offer much novelty – it follows a group of girls who scuba dive to a sunken Mayan city, only to be trapped by sharks. Not to be confused by the preceding movie which had two sisters get trapped by sharks while in Mexico, which makes it not very clear why this had to be a separate film.
Essentially, the critics’ consensus on both films is pretty clear: there isn’t much artistry or originality to behold here, as it has been called a “Jaws knock-off”, and even toothless, but it does offer low-stakes entertainment and cheap thrills, which is by any means, hardly a ringing endorsement.
However, audiences seemed to have enjoyed it for the same reason, as it did fairly well at the box office, and received much less scathing reviews from the viewers, who called it suspenseful and entertaining. This completely encapsulates the essence of what is clearly pictured as a summer audience pleaser, with little to no substance or rememberability.
In this Christian take on Friday Night Lights, a high school basketball coach and his team find themselves in a difficult times, after the town’s manufacturing plant gets shut down, leaving numerous families without a constant income stream. However, this is hardly a comment on the troubles of the working class, or an analysis of family and friendship – it is more accurately an unsubtle diatribe about the transformative power of prayer, that managed to find its audience, and – based on the majorly favorable audience reviews – satisfy their cinematic needs.
However, the critics didn’t hold back, calling it awkward and predictable at best, and preachy, cheesy and manipulative at worst, criticizing the film’s need to completely spell out its messages, instead of letting the audiences do the work in at least reaching the predetermined conclusions themselves.
The audiences, on the other hand, found it inspiring, powerful, and uplifting, praising the performances, and the message. Again, it could be that the movie was exactly what the audiences wanted out of it, but that doesn’t make the criticisms any less valuable from the aesthetic and narrative standpoint.
4. The Upside
This remake of the highly successful and highly beloved 2011 French film The Intouchables doesn’t seem to really improve or touch on the original, thereby failing to justify its mere existence, let alone the time and money it asks from its viewers.
These are the resources that they seem to have willingly given up, with the film doing well commercially, and getting favorable reviews from the audiences who found it charming, funny, uplifting, heartwarming, and multiple other positive adjectives. It is very possible that they didn’t know of the original, or any of the other two remakes, and couldn’t compare this version to them, but it seems like they were pleased with the performances by Kevin Hart as a paroled ex convict, and Bryan Cranston as his paraplegic, billionaire boss.
However, critics didn’t share the enthusiasm, calling the film manipulative, clichéd, “hackneyed”, even preachy and nothing more than a “light crowd pleaser”. The original film inspired some of the similar complaints, but to a much smaller extent, and mostly in retrospect, with the critics reactions matching the audiences’ much more closely, which indicates that it simply handled its subject matter more skillfully, leaving little reasons for the 2019 film to even exist, aside from the obvious language change, and the box office earnings.
5. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Another sequel on the list is a sequel of the 2014 Godzila and the 35th film in the overall Godzilla franchise, so the fact that some viewers found it a little passé isn’t that shocking. These viewers, are however, mostly the professional viewers, as its box office earnings were over double the production budget. Additionally, while some viewers has complaints, most of them found it interesting and compelling, praising the visuals and the action sequence.
This is the one aspect where they agree with the critics, who found the effects impressive, but not so much that they eliminate the need for good storytelling. They mostly found the film dull, emotionless, and completely unable to deal with its own magnitude. This makes the cutting-edge effects even sadder, after thinking about what they could be achieved while serving a better story.