Somebody needs to say this plain and straight. Numerous film critics have been cowed by the expected box-office avalanche of The Hunger Games and are therefore being extra-generous in their reviews. Right now it has a 89% and 72% rating from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, respectively, and mainly for one reason. Critics are terrified of sounding cranky or out-of-touch. Buck the tide? Not we!

Be wary of reviews by certain female critics, or at least those who may be susceptible to the lore of this young-female-adult-propelled franchise (“You go, Katniss!”). I don’t even know what to make of this declaration by Movieline‘s Stephanie Zacharek: “The surprise of The Hunger Games isn’t that it lives up to its hype — it’s that it plays as if that hype never even existed, which may be the trickiest achievement a big movie can pull off these days.” If there’s one thing that defines Gary Ross‘s film, it’s a feeling that he and his Hunger Games producers were acutely aware they were adapting a wildly popular literary property, and that they’d best serve the fantasies and sensibilities of its young female readers.

The only reviewers who’ve stood up and given this annoyingly photographed film the slapdown it deserves are Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir, the Miami Herald‘s Rene Rodrgiuez, Time‘s Richard Corisss and two or three others.

“The ultimate failure of The Hunger Games as a movie is not its derivative nature or its chintzy production design or even its lack of one single memorable set piece,” Rodriguez has written. “The film’s biggest flaw is the complete absence of vision or imagination – anything that would justify the movie’s existence as something other than a way to cash in on the novel. The Harry Potter pictures brought visual imagination and wonder to J.K. Rowling’s intricate fantasy world. The Twilight series has been a smash because of the chemistry between its lead actors. The Hunger Games, though, offers nothing.”