I haven’t yet had the pleasure of catching Zoolander 2, but Leonard Maltin has. And he broke a career tradition by walking out. Which he never does, he says. Ever. But I’ve been proudly and decisively walking out on certain films for decades, and I’ve never looked back. With some films walking out is an act of dignity and self-respect. The feeling of pride when you bail on a rancid film is wonderful.
So okay, yes…perhaps it wouldn’t mean as much if I bailed on Zoolander 2. But a Maltin walk-out matters.
“As I embarked on the experience of watching Zoolander 2 at a press screening the other night, I had an immediate reaction of annoyance and impatience,” he writes. “The film was stupid right from the start. I told myself that I was wasting my time for no good reason. But I stayed. Ten minutes passed, then twenty, filled with puerile and unfunny gags; along with gratuitous cameo appearances by everyone from Katy Perry to Willie Nelson. If even one of them had seemed clever I might have summoned some hope for the rest of the picture, but it was not to be.
“Mind you, I thought the original Zoolander was pretty funny. I had no reason to expect this one to be so much worse. But it is.
“Finally, after almost an hour, I strode out of the theater, proud of myself for taking positive action and sparing myself further insult. If there are hilarious moments in the latter half of the movie I can’t cite them for you. I can only offer an honest appraisal of what I saw. I bear no permanent grudge against anyone connected with the movie and hope they do better the next time out.
“By the way, it felt good to get home earlier than usual, and I think I turned a corner. Life is too short to spend two hours in a state of total exasperation.”
In other words, Maltin, who’s been in this racket since the ’60s, has finally gotten to a place where I’ve been since the ’80s.
Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips wrote about walking out in the summer of ’07, to wit: “Walking out of a movie means something. It means a filmmaker has crossed a personal line in the sand. We ‘ankle,” as the show business publication Variety likes to put it, for different reasons. A walkout’s significance depends largely on the pace of the exit (fleeing in revulsion versus schlumping out, bored beyond recognition) in relation to the crimes up on screen.”
In an 8.26 N.Y. Times essay about Norman Mailer‘s Maidstone, Gerald Howard reports that the legendary film critic Pauline Kael once called Mailer‘s Wild 90 “the worst movie that I’ve ever stayed to see all the way through.” Thus, Kael implied, she’d walked out on other bad movie. I remember reading a long time ago about her walking out on Raise the Titanic, muttering “life is too short.”