I suspect filmmaker-turned-speaker-turned-movie entrepreneur Kevin Smith expects anyone who’s paid to review movies and TV to completely unload on his new weekly Hulu movie review series, Spoilers. Indeed, coming into it, he’s kind of made it easy, in the wake of his own very recent history of (to his mind) calling out the review establishment because (and I’m paraphrasing here) sometimes they don’t want to see a movie, but because it’s their job, they’ll trash it. Or simpler still, in Smith’s mind (I think): sometimes critics don’t want to do their job which means they will do a bad job. Case in point: I didn’t want to watch Spoilers, but I’ll do my damndest to give it a fair shake.
While you continue to unpack the logic of Smith’s argument, Spoilers is nominally a counter to what Smith objects to there, with the Clerks paying for the movie tickets for a group of regular folks to go see one of ten summer blockbusters and then join him in a studio to talk about it. He canvasses the audience of about two dozen or so viewers, asks them their opinions of the movie in question, riffs with a couple of jokes, and then chats with a filmmaker/actor guest (this week it’s Carrie Fisher), followed by skits and animation.
It’s not half bad.
If you’ve listened to one of Smith’s podcasts or seen him speak in person (or on DVD), you know that he can riff and go off on storytelling tangents, but by necessity Spoilers has to force Smith to have a bit of structure in how he approaches the material here. So there’s a short, pre-credits monologue and then it’s on to the audience to chat about the movie (in this case, Snow White and the Huntsman), with Smith responding to the audience’s gut-check reactions to the movie. You’re not going to find any sort of deep discourse about making films, but that’s not to say Smith and company trotted a bunch of idiots on stage to talk about how much they liked the flashing lights.
It’s a little more conversational, and with Spoilers, Smith might have a winning formula if he could maybe shrink the panel/audience down to a handful of people, giving each a chance to chat and for him to respond. Right now, it feels like a segment from a talk show where the host goes up into the audience as part of a bit. While part of the charm might be precisely this sort of shaggy setup, I couldn’t help but think that Smith makes an interesting moderator and if he were allowed to focus his attention on fewer participants in the show, it might be all for the better of Spoilers.
The celebrity interview segment is a little less successful as Ms. Fisher regales the audience with an anecdote about doing mescaline on the set of The Blues Brothers. Confidential to Mr. Smith: I’m not sure any woman cares to hear how you ruined your sheets thinking about her as a teen, and when Carrie Fisher is telling you a story about tripping on mescaline on the set of a comedy classic, please let her speak. Likewise, the animated segment animates a sequence from one of his podcasts, in this case featuring a comedian riffing on Dracula saying “bleh” and segueing into a bit about Bill Cosby’s style of mush mouthed humor from the 70’s and 80’s. It’s… cute? Like everything else, it feels a little slapdash and more of a case of it felt like a good idea at the time. Smith actually makes paying the bills poignant with a Criterion Collection-sponsored segment where he talks for about two minutes about Jim Jarmusch’s Strangers in Paradise and in part about how the black and white independent film inspired him and filmmakers of his generation to get out an make movies.
So having been paid to watch and write about Spoilers in spite of my desire to do either, I can say that there’s a solid idea for a series here, although I’m not sure to what degree the format will evolve over the ten episodes Hulu has commissioned from Smith. It’s an interesting enough concept that just needs some trimming and focus to make work.
You can watch Spoilers on Hulu.