Yesterday I saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at the Warner Bros screening room in midtown Manhattan. It was the first ever New York screening, at 2 in the afternoon, and it was the day after school let out for the summer, so the screening room was packed with kids (all very well-behaved, by the way). I settled into my seat and a fellow critic sat down next to me. I’m not going to reveal the guy’s name here, but he’s well-known and has been in the business a long, long time. We’re also colleagues in a critic group here in New York, and I’ve found him to be a nice enough guy, all things considered and despite his bitchy rep.
So there we are, waiting for the movie to start. The critic in question is doodling on the back of his press notes (there were some kids from a Harry Potter fansite at the screening, and it was obviously their first press screening – one of the kids said he thought the notes were the script. Adorable young whippersnappers!) and then the lights start going down. And within a couple of minutes of the opening of the film, as Harry and Dudley are being attacked by Dementors in suburban England, the critic next to me falls asleep.
He’s not just sleeping, he’s snoring. And he’s not doing that sawing logs kind of snoring, he’s doing a Three Stooges-esque ‘buh buh buh’ with his lips. It’s pretty hilarious, but it gets better. The critic keeps waking up during the course of the film – and not during loud parts – and being startled. He’ll wake up and his arms will jump up into the air, as if to ward off the giant angry gods on the screen. I kept thinking he’d cry out ‘Where am I!??!’ at one point; lord knows I’d sympathize, as there’s nothing more disorienting than an incomplete nap.
The critic kept going in and out for the whole film. He’d write a bit on the back of his notes and then be ‘buh buh buh’ing again a second later. Finally the movie ended and he got up and left the screening. I wish I had asked him the burning question that was on my mind: ‘Are you going to review this film?’ I wasn’t paying attention to him the whole movie, but I got the impression that he slept through a significant portion of the film, and definitely slept through many scenes that would have helped him understand the plot (assuming he hasn’t read the books, and I assume he hasn’t). What kind of a review can he possibly write based on his experience? I’d like to hope that he’ll see the movie again, possibly at the all-media and after downing a quart of Red Bull, but I’m cynical and get the feeling that he won’t.
What would be especially excellent would be if he got his dreams mixed up in his review. ‘The film deals with some adult themes, especially the scene when a spell gone wrong causes Harry’s penis to grow uncontrollably. These scenes reminded me of masturbating furtively in the bathroom as a child; in fact, many of the sets reminded me strongly of my mother’s house.’
I’m not looking to embarrass this guy, especially since he may see the film again before reviewing it. That said, if his review ends up being especially clueless, I’ll be sure to link you to it and out him.