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"Appallingly bad"

Back in the 1990s, people watched a lot of TV and went to a lot of movies. You could even watch movie critics on TV. And if you did, you probably watched Siskel & Ebert.

Their fame and influence gave them the power to shape public discourse about a film, its cast, and its producers.

So when Ace Ventura: Pet Detective came out in 1994, it was their first opportunity to weigh in on the performance of star and co-writer Jim Carrey. Here’s some of what they said:

… appallingly bad movie … Jim Carrey is so obnoxious … so obnoxious … shockingly bad.

screenshot of gene siskel saying "shockingly bad"

Not a great reception for the actor’s first starring role in a film.

Here’s a roundtable discussion where Carrey talks about how he felt when he read their review, three days before the movie’s release. It’s as you’d expect - disappointment, uncertainty.

But if you keep watching, you’ll hear him explain how just a few years later, both critics recanted their initial review and recorded a special episode of their show paying tribute to Carey.

An episode with quotes like this:

[His movies] are all hits!

… he has perfect verbal comic timing …

… I am a little bit humbled since that first review.

What changed?

Nothing, as far as I can tell. Jim Carrey kept being obnoxious, in movies like The Mask and Dumb and Dumber. He even made a sequel to Ace Ventura.

He just … kept going.

And along the way, he found a huge audience, made millions of people laugh, and eventually wore down even his harshest critics.

With any luck, you’ll never have to deal with the nation’s top critics saying your work is “shockingly bad” in a syndicated newspaper column and television show. But whatever you’re working on … someone will hate it.

So, what’s the plan for when that happens?

Up to you, but I’ll humbly suggest “keep being obnoxious.”


Did you know ...

This post is part of a series called Someone Will Hate It.

Each issue is a quick inoculation against impostor syndrome.

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© 2022 Brian David Hall