I’ve been reading movie reviews since I was a kid. Every Friday, I’d go for the reviews in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s weekend section before I hit the funnies. Even now, I’ve been known to guiltily flip past the front section of the paper to check out the movie reviews before going back to read about more weighty matters.
And Roy Sexton is the first movie reviewer to ever make me laugh out loud.
Not just once either. I made the mistake of bringing his latest book — “Reel Roy Reviews, Vol. 2: Keep ’Em Coming” — as reading material on Philadelphia’s PATCO High Speed Line. Spent the entire trip giggling like a stoner in study hall. I think I scared some people. It would be worth getting the book just for his side-splitting evisceration of “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
Here’s the great thing about Sexton’s humor, though. Even when he’s trashing a film, he’s got a rare knack for being sharply funny without coming across as snide.
You can tell Sexton is one of those guys who just really enjoys the experience of going to the movies. Reading his reviews is like heading to the cineplex with an affable, really-freakin-funny friend. For a sparsely attended afternoon matinee, maybe, where you can put your feet up on the seats and do a “Mystery Science Theater” without feeling like a jerk.
If you and your friend like the movie, great. If not, you can still have a blast ripping on it, and laughing about how bad it was over beers later.
In his second volume of reviews (see my review of the first volume here), Sexton expands the scope a bit. He includes more reviews from concerts and regional community theater productions from his home turf of Michigan. He even has a few pieces about the local theater scene. Even if you don’t have any inherent interest in Michigan community theater, the latter have a pleasant local-newspaper-columnist feel that you don’t see enough of since this whole digital age thing happened. Besides, Sexton is the kind of guy who could write a septic tank installation manual, and still be fun to read.
What I enjoyed most in the book, weirdly enough, were the reviews of movies I wouldn’t have any natural inclination to watch. Not because he artfully lambasted them, but because he made them sound like fun.
His innovative approach as a reviewer is to evaluate the overall experience of watching a movie, rather than judging it as good or bad according to some film scholarly criteria that — let’s be honest — most film viewers don’t particularly care about in the first place.
It brought me back to those pre-Netflix days when I’d sometimes watch movies not because I’d specifically chosen them, but just because they were on.
I don’t do that anymore. When I’m watching a movie now, it’s one I’ve read about and determined will likely be worth the time I’m investing in it. Something critics have praised, or else a less revered but still cinematically significant film watched out of obligation to shore up cracks in my cultural literacy.
Nothing wrong with that. Still, Sexton’s book reminded me of the half-forgotten pleasures of accidental viewing. Discovering a glorious piece of cheese like “Roadhouse.” Or watching Jean Claude Van Damme now being acknowledged as a gifted comic actor, and knowing you picked up on that the first time you saw “Kickboxer.” Or maybe the fifth time. Or maybe … what is this … the 15th viewing? Hell, I don’t even remember. Hey! “Big Trouble in Little China” is on next! BOOyah!
Ah, those were the days.
Sexton is a welcome reminder that movies like “300 — Rise of an Empire” can still be a hell of a lot of fun. Especially if you’ve got a hilarious guide along with you.
Oh yeah. Be sure to check out more of Sexton’s stuff at his Website, Reel Roy Reviews.