and I and all those people out there with a vocal love of film have
ruined it for everyone, pimping movies up, falling in love with
mediocre films and championing them to near-legendary status. We’ve
embraced turkeys, legitimized borderline movies, and elevated modest
films in our favorite franchises above and beyond realistic standards.
We’ve even embraced the films everyone likes, somehow adding a
credibility to them that transcends the mainstream. Sacred cows, little
flicks, and everything in between. It’s time we took a look inward and
came clean with 25 movies we think need to be taken down a peg or two.

These are our four categories for this list:

These guys have had it too easy. Far too easy. Don’t believe the insane hype.
Good flicks that have gotten too damn big for their britches.
Asshole, you love this film for all the wrong reasons.
Something went horribly wrong here and it’s carried over the the fans, who are blinded by shizer.

Why Punch-Drunk Love is Overrated 
Your guide: Alex Riviello

CHUD’s Logline: A lonely, anger-prone man tries to find his way in life and heads on down the road towards his first real relationship. In his ignorance and stupidity, he doesn’t see the inevitable disaster looming (not filmed). Based on the true story of a real nutjob!

Its Legacy:  A motherfucking Golden Globe nomination for Adam Sandler. Hundreds of people thinking that he can actually act. Scores of socially inept film fans wishing they could find an Emily Watson of their own so they can stop busting up public bathrooms and hating themselves. Paul Thomas Anderson’s third failure as a feature film director.

Why It’s Here: Remember when Jim Carey showed up in The Truman Show and did something a tiny bit different than his usual schtick and people went crazy for it? Remember how people ranted and raved about his performance and said it was a revelation, and started throwing around crazy phrases like “Oscar-worthy”? Have you seen it recently? Doesn’t exactly hold up, does it?

Same applies here with Adam Sandler. Everyone went nuts for this one when it came out, and I had friends going to film school who looked at it as a perfect film, something to strive for in their own work. Critics wondered if this was a start of a new era for Sandler. Roger Ebert compared him to Dennis Hopper, and another even compared him to Chaplin in City Lights… I shit you not.

What’s Punch-Drunk Love, really? Just one short, clunky movie. It starts off slow and boring, much like the protagonist. It tries to kick-start into life a little bit and does even manage to roll along a bit with one or two fantastic scenes (especially when his love interest and sister show up at work- incredible sound design there) but it ends up sputtering and dying before ever really knowing where it was going.

Sandler’s not a revelation in this film. He’s playing the exact same socially stunted man-child he plays in every film, albeit of a slightly different variety. Here it’s as if his usual character grew up in an alternate universe where his goofy voices brought only disdain from his family, instead of them putting up with it for years and years so he can use them to appear impossibly cute to women way out of his league. Here he’s a violent, angry douchebag with some serious mental issues, the kind of person who you’re glad can’t get a real relationship because you know that the world would be better off without his seed running around.
But the biggest fault with the film by far is that for a romantic comedy, there’s not a whole lot of heart here. In fact, there’s really no feeling of attraction between the leads at all. They just seem to be two retards who bumped heads and liked what they felt. Now there’s nothing wrong with awkward love in film- that’s how real relationships are, rocky and strange and generally uncomfortable. But there’s at least usually some feeling or passion there.

It’s so plain that PTA seems to have wanted to spruce up the otherwise boring story with a plot twist and characters ripped straight out of a Coen Brothers comedy. Who’ve lost their scripts and acting ability.
It’s not a terrible film by any shot, but it’s basically the feeling of awkwardness made flesh, and who wants to see that?

One reason I think this movie gets so much love is because the audiences that seem to typically like this film are just as bitter, quirky, and just plain weird as it is. Perhaps that’s why I’m missing something here.

A Moment of Piss: Whenever the Utah phone sex crew shows up and demonstrates how one-note their characters are, or whenever Barry shops or talks about pudding.

These Ain’t Chopped Liver Alternatives: Once, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Popeye.

Nick Nunziata Agrees: Hard Eight [don’t call it Sydney to sound elite], Boogie Nights, and Magnolia were all very significant movies in creating the mystique and name recognition of Paul Thomas Anderson and There Will Be Blood on the tail end of this reminded us of why he was such a big deal in the first place. This little oddity, which was supposedly Anderson’s foray into comedy after the arduous experience that was Magnolia isn’t much of a comedy or much of a love story. Or much of anything but a frustrating and grating time at the movies.

It’s one thing for an artist to do a small film for themselves, but the resulting product doesn’t feel as much like a lighter experience or the director riffing than it does an uncomfortable misfire. Apparently, the filmmaker was a big fan of Adam Sandler and wanted to work with him in a film that stretched his abilities but as Alex said, this really doesn’t do that. I’d go as far to say that I saw more range in the trailer for You Don’t Mess with The Zohan than here. Sandler doesn’t coast on his typical schtick but rather substitute restraint and silence in exchange for the overt and loud persona that made him a chachillionaire.

Why it’s overrated is simple: A P.T. Anderson release is an event film. There’s expectation. There’s a built-in audience who have in some ways attached an increased significance to his films. If D.J. Caruso had made Punch-Drunk Love it’d be one of those films you see on Showtime at 2am, another Adam Sandler film that people dismiss because Allan Covert doesn’t show up and Rob Schneider doesn’t insult a nationality, therefore not part of the Adam Sandler canon.

Adam Sandler canon. Color me surprised that when I did a Google search there were 98,400 hits on that phrase being used [to save you the trouble there are 1,120 for Devin Faraci Asshole and 366 for Nick Nunziata Homosexual].

It’s a minor film. Which was Anderson’s intention I suppose, but regardless of that the community came alive in discussion of this minor film. Critics were positive [80% fresh of Rotten tomatoes, 7.4 average on IMDB] and this site became a haven for some rather heated discussion regarding it. I recently saw it for the second time after loathing it the first time out and find that it’s really undeserving of much love or hate, which further illustrates what a total non-entity it is. Some nice music, much deserved attention to the undeserving instrument the harmonium, and a funny argument between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Adam Sandler is really all it has going for it. Some filmmakers make uncomfortable silence into high art, but here Anderson seems to be toying with us, seeing if he’s untouchable.

People still bring this movie up in conversation when discussing great films, and I cringe each and every time. Fucker’s overrated.

So there.

Another reason it’s overrated is because the bastion of film credibility, Cracked, considers it a classic. As most of you know, as goes Cracked goes the world of film fans the world over.

Devin Faraci Disagrees: It only took a week. Here’s an entry in the list that I really, really
disagree with, especially as an overrated film. After all, I think this
movie is perfectly rated – it doesn’t make people’s lists of the best
of all time (or even the best of Paul Thomas Anderson), it was barely
nominated for any awards, let alone win any (the most prestigious
thing Punch-Drunk Love took home was the Best Director award at Cannes), and it isn’t some of sort of inescapable presence on television. Punch-Drunk Love is a little movie, a transitional movie, and I think it’s appreciated more than it’s adored.

So there’s no way to argue that this film is overrated unless you’re
arguing that it sucks, which is… nuts. It’s certainly not for
everyone, and the way that Anderson melds romantic comedy with
psychosis is strange and sometimes off-putting. But it’s also kind of
beautiful. Way back in the day, the movie Marty was a revelation because it was a love story between two regular – and not that attractive – people. Punch-Drunk Love comes
along almost fifty years later and things haven’t changed much. It’s
still amazing to see people who are not Movie Star Beautiful falling in
love on screen. And it’s even more amazing when the people are a little
bit bent, a little bit odd. Not quirky in the Hollywood accepted way –
think Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club, for one. Or Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine
but quirky in the way that the real lonely people in the world are
quirky. Lonely people in romantic movies are never too off-putting or
weird, exactly unlike real lonely people. Exactly unlike the characters
in Punch-Drunk Love. Especially Adam Sandler’s Barry Egan, a guy who is a maybe more than a little scary at times.

The real magic of Punch-Drunk Love is
how Paul Thomas Anderson takes Adam Sandler’s comic persona – a
juvenile guy with severe rage issues, essentially a borderline
sociopath – and not only successfully relocates that persona in a very
different world but also makes that persona sympathetic. Anderson
strips that character down finds the human heart inside, something that
no Sandler movie had ever bothered to do. He also strips himself down,
making a movie that has few of his usual visual flourishes, but still
remains gorgeous. Where Boogie Night and Magnolia (and to a lesser extent Hard Eight) were glossy and ambitious films, Punch-Drunk Love is simple. And it’s a movie that Anderson needed to make to get to the quiet beauty of There Will Be Blood.

Plus, Punch-Drunk Love reintroduced a lot of people to one of the great songs from Robert Altman’s Popeye.
As an unabashed fan of Harry Nilsson, I have to say that any movie
which brings his music to ears cannot be rated highly enough.

Punch-Drunk Love is the kind of movie
we should be encouraging our filmmakers to attempt. It’s odd, it’s
off-kilter, it’s not following the usual rules and conventions. It’s
making everybody involved stretch themselves in ways that are new to
them. It’s not highwire filmmaking, it’s not the kind of movie that, if
it were a disaster, would end careers, but it’s the kind of movie where
personal artistic boundaries are readjusted. The problem with the big
budget, mega zillion dollar world of movies today is that films can
either be FUCKING GREAT or FUCKING TERRIBLE, and we’re losing the
ability to appreciate the films that sort of fall in the middle. It’s
especially bad when it comes to the work of a genius like Anderson –
every film is expected to be life altering. Punch-Drunk Love doesn’t feel like it was ever intended to be that at all.

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