MOVIE IN QUESTION: Risky Business, 1983
AUTHOR OF REVIEW BEING REVIEWED: Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times
Roger Ebert has made a living out of reviewing movies, the kind of living that I hope to make by reviewing reviews. Let’s see how his review holds up under this blog’s scrutiny.
Ebert’s review can be divided into two halves. In the first half he describes the film’s plot and in the second he provides insight regarding its quality as well as its significance as a coming-of-age comedy tackling issues like guilt, sex, and obsession. It’s really the second half of his review that saves this thing from being a piece of garbage.
Paragraphs 2-3: “It's a busy time in Joel's life. He's got college board exams, an interview with a Princeton admissions officer, and finals at high school.
It gets to be an even busier time after his parents leave. Joel gets involved in an ascending pyramid of trouble.”
Roger, this reads like a middle school kid wrote it. You’re a smart guy, no? What’s going on here? I was soundly disappointed with the writing style that this critic used in dully walking us through the general plot of the picture. At any rate, things start to look up when Ebert goes into his analysis of writer/director Paul Brickman’s work.
Paragraph 5: “This is one of those movies where a few words or a single line says everything that needs to be said, implies everything that needs to be implied, and gets a laugh. When the hooker tells the kid, "Oh, Joel, go to school. Learn something," the precise inflection of those words defines their relationship for the next three scenes.”
Wow, I couldn’t have said that any better. Solid insight. This is the kind of intelligent writing I've been waiting to see since I started this blog over two hours ago.
He goes on to compliment the movie on being extremely well-casted and acted, noting how difficult it is to make a good comedy, especially one that stays funny all the way through. I might have actually made that last part up on my own, but it’s worth pointing out.
Paragraph 7, final sentence: “This movie knows what goes on behind the closed bathroom doors of the American dream.”
Again, really good stuff, Roger. This conclusion is thoughtful, articulate and ends the review on a very high note. As pedestrian as the first half of your review may have been, the last four paragraphs more than save it. I guess maybe that’s why you became a pseudo-celebrity for doing this while no one knows anything about that clown William Arnold.
Ebert gives the movie a four-star rating, which I believe is out of the classic four-star scale rather than the current 5-star rating system used by Netflix. If so, I think he overshot it by 1/2 star, but regardless, he did a damn good job talking about the film.
One more thing to add, which Roger Ebert failed to mention because the decade in which he wrote the review couldn’t really appreciate it. Tom Cruise’s thigh-high cutoff jean shorts in the scene where Guido confronts him at his house. In the 80’s this may have been pretty common to see, but watching this film over 25 years later, it’s hard to imagine a high school kid trying to get away with pulling off that look. At the very least he’d get his ass kicked. While I can’t fault Ebert for failing to predict the drastic departure our culture would make from absurd 1980’s fashion, this is something that any modern-day review needs to acknowledge.
FINAL GRADE OF ROGER EBERT’S REVIEW: 3 / 4 stars
What follows will be a first in Movie Review Review history. Don’t miss it!