Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #13

Re: Terminator 4 vs. Night at the Museum 2

I know that you don’t have time to review every film that comes out, and in the past I’ve been surprised by your decision of which films you choose over others. But I’m really surprised of your choice to review Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian over Terminator: Salvation. Especially since you didn’t review the first Night at the Museum and did review Terminator 3. How did you come to this decision, if you don’t mind my asking?

  1. In a crowded May release schedule with many writing commitments, an editor for one of the outlets I freelance for, Christianity Today Movies, needed a review of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Every screening I attend (unless it’s a family screening) and every review I write takes me away from my family; if I can help support my family writing about one movie rather than another, all things being equal, I’ll take the paying gig. (I also like helping out an editor.)
  2. More relevantly for Decent Films readers, Battle of the Smithsonian is the first family film I’ve reviewed in weeks. I like to maintain variety where possible; if I’m going to privilege any target audience, I’ll choose family audiences. Lately, though, I haven’t had that chance. So far this month, before Battle of the Smithsonian there’s been nothing except Battle for Terra, which (somewhat unjustly) sank without a ripple at the box office (only three weeks after release it’s playing in only half a dozen theaters nationwide). In April, likewise, I reviewed only one family film, the nature documentary Earth. Before that, you have to go all the way back to March for Monsters vs. Aliens and Race to Witch Mountain.
  3. On the other hand, there’s been no shortage of violent action films lately. This month alone I reviewed Angels & Demons, Star Trek and Wolverine. For the sake of variety and because of my special concern for family audiences, Battle of the Smithsonian was more appealing than Terminator: Salvation.

  4. The above factor was accentuated by my upcoming appearance on “Catholic Answers Live.” More CA listeners will probably want to know about NatM2 than T4.
  5. While I haven’t yet written up the original Night at the Museum, I have seen it, and it represents a subgenre of family film, what I call the “broken family film,” that I have strong feelings about and think is worth writing about. The sequel was an excuse to do that, at least by way of referring to the original if the same issues didn’t crop up in the sequel.
  6. Finally, I’m not getting good vibes at all from T4. Just the name McG raises red flags (We Are Marshall notwithstanding). A friend and fellow critic who saw T4 hated it, and most critics seem to agree. (They don’t like NatM2 either, but they dislike T4 even more.)

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