If you’re a film geek– and especially if you’re a fan of Rotten Tomatoes– then there’s a good chance that you’re already familiar with film critic Armond White. He’s the infamous, contrarian film critic that writes for the New York Press, well-known amongst film geeks as the dude who will disagree with public opinion on a film almost 100% of the time if it means that it’ll drive some outraged traffic to his articles. Armond White is an idiot, and that’s not just name-calling: his Toy Story 3 review– which seems to be gathering more attention than perhaps anything else he’s ever committed to digital print– is outlandishly nonsensical, absurd to the point of idiocy in its criticisms of Pixar’s latest. Below, we take a paragraph-by-paragraph look at White’s review to prove just how mindblowingly stupid he is. See it for yourselves below, my gentle Examiner readers…
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that people who express their opinions online don’t matter. There are people that get paid to offer their opinion, but just because they’ve shared their thoughts on a film (or a TV show, or some product, or whatever) doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to agree with them. One of my favorite critics, Roger Ebert, has written some reviews that I would argue tooth-and-nail with him over, but that doesn’t mean that I respect Roger Ebert any less, or that I’m required to accept his word as gospel. Critics are just normal people with mouthy tendencies, and should be treated as such.
Well, usually. Sometimes, a critic’s not a critic. For example, look at Armond White. Here’s a guy who’s made a career being the biggest contrarian imaginable, agreeing with the majority of critics only 52% of the time on RottenTomatoes.com. His reviews are designed to cause outrage, anger, and to insult the fans of the films he pans, and every time he releases a bad review for a great film, he gets exactly what he wants when the traffic comes pouring into his articles. Dude may be the biggest troll the internet’s ever seen, and that’s saying something.
White’s recent Toy Story 3 review– the first negative review (but not the last; some other jerk-ass wrote a negative review for that wonderful film to cash in on the same traffic White’s pulling, but we’ll just ignore him for now) the film received and thus the review that knocked Toy Story 3 off its 100% perch on RottenTomatoes– is vintage Armond White. It’s a great example of what he does best, and if you’ve heard the name but never read one of his reviews, his Toy Story 3 review serves as a sterling example of why people hate this dude. I won’t be linking to that review here (why give him the hits?), but I will be going through his review paragraph-by-paragraph and mocking his idiocy. Let’s take a look at White’s words:
Pixar has now made three movies explicitly about toys, yet the best movie depiction of how toys express human experience remains Whit Stillman’s 1990 Metropolitan. As class-conscious Tom Townsend (Edward Clements) tries fitting in with East Side debutantes, he discovers his toy cowboy pistol in his estranged father’s trash. Without specifying the model, Stillman evokes past childhood, lost innocence and Townsend’s longing for even imagined potency. But Toy Story 3 is so besotted with brand names and product-placement that it stops being about the innocent pleasures of imagination—the usefulness of toys—and strictly celebrates consumerism.
Things begin in typical Armond White fashion, with the critic tossing out a reference to a film that most people have never even heard of. Not to take anything away from Metropolitan, but White’s just using the film to lord his knowledge of film over the casual review-reader here, a move that he’s made on more than a few occasions. The idea is to present himself as someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of film, someone more credible when it comes to movies than you are, and here he fails miserably. Comparing Metropolitan to Toy Story 3 is like comparing 8 Millimeter to State and Main because they’re both about the problems inherent in making a film.
Also, Toy Story 3 doesn’t “celebrate consumerism” by any stretch of the imagination. This is very likely in reference to the inclusion of Barbie and Ken in the film, but the two are supporting characters at best and aren’t glorified above the other toys at any point. Pixar’s gone out of their way– in all the Toy Story films– to create toys that are recognizable but not specific, and Toy Story 3 is no different. Had the film been packed with actual G.I. Joes and Pokemon characters, White would have a point. But it’s not, so he doesn’t. We’re one paragraph in, and already White’s trying to connect dots that don’t even exist on the same plane.
I feel like a 6-year-old having to report how in Toy Story 3 two dolls—Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen)—try to save a toy box of childhood playthings from either disuse or imprisonment as donations to a daycare center because their human owner, 17-year-old Andy, packs them up as he heads off to college. The toys wage battle with the daycare center’s cynical veteran cast-offs: Hamm the Piggy Bank pig, Lotsa Hugs and Big Baby. But none of these digital-cartoon characters reflect human experience; it’s essentially a bored game that only the brainwashed will buy into. Besides, Transformers 2 already explored the same plot to greater thrill and opulence.
White feels like a child reporting the plot for Toy Story 3, but must have felt like the most mature adult in the world while reporting on Transformers 2. One might say that while relaying the plot points of a film geared primarily towards children, one is bound to feel a little silly: “The toy cowboy tries to save his spaceman friend from an evil teddy bear” isn’t the most adult-sounding sentence in the world, but then, Toy Story 3 is not a film that was made for adults. Additionally, saying that none of the toys “reflect human experience” is one of the most absurd notions in his entire review: the whole Toy Story saga is meant to reflect the human experience: loss, fear of abandonment, faith, love, “moving on”, and death are all examined closely in this series– particularly in Toy Story 3. Saying that the human experience isn’t reflected in this film indicates that either A) Armond White is consciously lying about his understanding of Toy Story 3, or B) he’s so dumb he didn’t understand what he was watching.
Furthermore, tossing that sentence onto the end of the above paragraph– the one where White mentions Transformers 2– is the most obvious indication in this entire review that White’s either writing parody or for the purpose of trolling everyone. Besides the fact that Transformers 2 is a terrible movie with an incomprehensible plot, the two share virtually no similarities when it comes to story. White’s obviously just thrown out the name of film he knows to be critically reviled to create more controversy (read: more hits) amongst readers. As they say on Fark.com, “Obvious troll is obvious”.
While Toy Story 3’s various hazards and cliffhangers evidence more creativity than typical Pixar product (an inferno scene was promising, Lotsa Hugs’ cannily evokes mundane insensitivity), I admit to simply not digging the toys-come-to-life fantasy (I don’t babysit children, so I don’t have to) nor their inevitable repetition of narrative formula: the gang of animated, talking objects journey from one place to another and back—again and again. It recalls how Tim Burton’s atrocious Alice in Wonderland repeated narrative stasis without exercising the famous line: “It takes all the running you can do just to stay in the same place.” Burton’s omission of that legendary, therapeutic slogan parallels how Toy Story 3 suckers fans to think they can accept this drivel without paying for it politically, aesthetically or spiritually.
My favorite part of this entire paragraph is the bizarre aside that White makes in the first sentence about babysitting children. What the hell is that all about? Wouldn’t one say “I don’t have children”? What is he trying to imply with the choice of the word “babysitting”? Perhaps this is just White’s obvious madness peeking through his words. It’s in this paragraph that White pulls out another one of his tricks: attempting to throw another movie under the bus in a new review (and, perhaps, driving you to his review of that other film) for no apparent reason. See Also: In his Jonah Hex review (which he loved, of course), White manages to spend an inordinate amount of time throwing Toy Story 3 under the bus. Alice in Wonderland has very little to do with Toy Story 3— the way he’s linking the two here is a most tenuous connection– but that’s irrelevant: the real issue is that we’re not “paying for it politically, aesthetically, or spiritually”.
Wait, what? This is another tactic that White employs, over and over again: he’ll throw out words and phrases that don’t really fit in context with what he’s saying, which I’ve come to believe is just his attempt to sound more educated than he truly is. I think that White believes if he just throws out enough four syllable words, people will think that he knows what he’s talking about. If you read through a few of White’s other reviews (and I encourage you not to), you’ll notice this happening a lot. How is Toy Story 3 suckering us into accepting it without paying for it aesthetically? Can anyone even tell me what that sentence means? Oh, look, his next paragraph begins in a way that leads us to believe he’s going to explain himself:
Look at the Barbie and Ken sequence where the sexually dubious male doll struts a chick-flick fashion show. Since it serves the same time-keeping purpose as a chick-flick digression, it’s not satirical. We’re meant to enjoy our susceptibility, not question it, as in Joe Dante’s more challenging Small Soldiers. Have shill-critics forgotten that movie? Do they mistake Toy Story 3’s opening day for 4th of July patriotism?
OK, well, he didn’t explain himself. He says “Look at…” as though he’s providing an example, but instead he pulls off yet another classic Armond White special: he confuses the already-confused reader by tossing another nonsensical observation into the mix. In Toy Story 3, there’s a scene where Barbie has to distract the temporarily-villainous Ken by coercing him into putting on a fashion show for her. Because Ken’s supposed to be watching over some other imprisoned toys, this makes all the sense in the world as far as plot goes. But White maintains that this “serves the same time-keeping purpose as a chick-flick digression”, which leads me to believe that he didn’t understand what he was seeing, or why it was happening. There were six year olds in the theater I was in that understood the logic of this scene, but Armond White can’t?
Furthermore, describing the above scene as “non-satirical” indicates that White also doesn’t understand the word “satirical”. The “fashion show” sequence works perfectly well as satire of any number of other “Watch me try on clothes!” scenes from any other movie you’ve ever seen, even though that wasn’t the point of its Toy Story 3 sequence. And what does “we’re meant to enjoy our susceptibility” even mean? That’s just White doing that “big words for no reason” trick again.He then moves on to compare TS3 to Joe Dante’s Small Soldiers, a film that’s not terrible, but that shares very little in common with Pixar’s film. Let’s wrap this thing up, White:
When Toy Story 3 emulates the suspense of prison break and horror films, it becomes fitfully amusing (more than can be said for Wall-E or Up) but this humor depends on the recognition of worn-out toys which is no different from those lousy Shrek gags. Only Big Baby, with one Keane eye and one lazy eye, and Mr. Potato Head’s deconstruction into Dali’s slip-sliding “Persistence of Memory” are worthy of mature delectation. But these references don’t meaningfully expand even when the story gets weepy. The Toy Story franchise isn’t for children and adults, it’s for non-thinking children and adults. When a movie is this formulaic, it’s no longer a toy because it does all the work for you. It’s a sap’s story.
There’s White tossing another couple of Pixar films under the bus in the first sentence of his closing paragraph. I’m sorry, but if you thought that Up wasn’t amusing– even “fitfully” so– you have no soul. I do agree with White’s view that Shrek is filled with tired gags, but (as I’m sure anyone who’s seen Toy Story 3, or any other Pixar film for that matter, can attest) TS3‘s not short on clever dialogue, funny situations, and some truly original sequences. White, however, thinks that “mature delectation” can only be derived by Mr. Potato Head’s parts being inserted into a tortilla. O…kay. Calling a movie that’s doubtlessly going to be beloved by the masses a “sap’s story” is just begging for enraged traffic, but I think that’s the point. All in all, this review stands as one of the most worthless, least-reliable, obviously antagonistic things I’ve ever read from a film critic.
There are people that are calling for White’s termination, and still others calling for Rotten Tomatoes to ban him from their site. It’s become obvious over time that White’s just doing this for the hits. Some people claim that he’s actually a master satirist, and that everything he writes isn’t to be taken seriously. They claim that White is a brilliant creator of parody, but they couldn’t be more wrong. White’s just a garden-variety internet troll thriving on the hits he manages to land with his absurdly out-of-synch reviews. Devoting an entire article to him seems like a really good way to be “Feeding the troll”, but I couldn’t help myself. Despite the fact that I’ve just used a lot of words to draw attention to White, I think the best thing to do is ignore him.
That’s all we’ve got for you for now, folks, but stay tuned for more as it becomes available. In the meantime, we’ve got all manner of funny videos, news, reviews, interviews, recaps, funny pictures, and more to keep you entertained all summer long, so hit the “Subscribe” button up top to get all of it delivered straight to your inbox, free of charge, the moment it’s published. Why, if that wasn’t enough, we’ve also got some other recent Comedy Examiner articles for you to look over while you’re here:
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(photos: allmovieposters.com, next–collider.com, next–slashfilm.com, next–pixar.com, bottom–myspace.com)