You Can’t Please Everybody . . .


I stole this idea from Stars in Margins, a commenter on io9’s Observation Deck. She’s a librarian, and they use this game as an icebreaker for teen programs, which means it should be right up Argh’s alley. It’s called “Guess the Classic Based On Its One-Star Amazon Review.” I love this game because it pretty much proves that nobody ever made a movie or wrote a book that everybody liked. Also, some reviewers are nuts.

I’ll get you started with one of my faves, reproduced exactly as the writer posted it on Amazon:

“I bought this for my three year old and was shocked to see how violent and filthy it was. The “F” word was used many times and there were many scenes with shooting and death and violence. Terible. By the way, I’m posting my name the way it is so nobody will know my E-mAil address.” (Movie.)

The title?

Die Hard.

Now you play. Here are five classic movies and books (classic in the sense that they’ve been around for awhile and are generally considered terrific examples of their genres). I’ll come back in tomorrow and post the titles if you all haven’t gotten them by then.

1. “This was a silly attempt at a Fairy Tale spoof, which at the same time told seriously a mushy story about sentimentalized “True Love.” (At least, I guess that was the movie maker’s intention.) The love story worked pretty well, but the spoof didn’t. The dialogue reminded me of spoofy intellectual dialogue such as in “Pirates of Penzance” by Gilbert and Sullivan, but it wasn’t nearly as clever. (I think that some viewers didn’t realize that the intention of this movie was to spoof vengeance and violence, thieving and piratry. I realized that humor was intended, but the effect that came across was just–for me–a feeling of repulsion with the worst violence, as in the torture scenes, and I found the vengeful intentions of the likable Spaniard were just irritating. True, unforgiving thoughts obsess a person and play over and over in the mind, but the repetition here came across as pointless.”
The Princess Bride. Because he should only have said, “Prepare to die,” once instead of nattering on about it.

2. “I wanted to like this film. Really, I did. But there’s not a scary frame in the film. The suspense falls flat, the dialogue is ugh, the characters to me were nothing more than fish food, and it’s vastly overrated. I wanted SO much to have a GREAT time watching this film, but I just couldn’t. I apologize, but I can’t lie. I hated this movie.”
Jaws. Also, the music was boring. And what was with all the water?

3. “This is one of those books I pushed myself to get halfway through, thinking it would get interesting, only to force myself to finish it since I already read half of it. While there may be no accounting for taste or I’m just missing something, I’m not sure how anyone can enjoy reading this. It ultimately boils down to some sisters trying to marry (up, for the most part) in the world. I guess, if I try real hard, I can see some people imagining themselves in the scenes and enjoying the idea of living in the same town, wearing the same clothes, going to the same events, etc., but nothing really ever happens. It just goes on and on and on, only to lead this sister ending up with that guy, this sister ending up with that guy, etc.”
Pride and Prejudice. There should have been explosions. And a dog.

4. “How psychologically disturbed is he, let me count the ways. Inferiority complex, obsessive attachment to uninterested female ([she] turned him down whatever her “real feelings” might have been) that borders upon incest (they’re not blood kin but they are raised together); inability to “forget the one that got away” and MOVE ON; child abuse/neglect with clearly murderous intentions; wife/spousal abuse; kidnapping and coerced marriage and even theft of personal assets… Give me a break this is no alpha male, this is a psychopathic CRIMINAL!” (Book)
Wuthering Heights. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a complex anti-hero.

5. “Let’s move on to the actual story. This is where the “unoriginal” trait comes in. Can we say “Cinderella”? [The story] is too contrived. We’ve all seen the main storyline before: kind orphan boy/girl who just so happens to be whisked away to someplace “magical” for them; is great at everything and wins the admiration of practically everybody, with the exception of a few jealous enemies here and there. This storyline has been DONE TO DEATH, and [this book] doesn’t make it any better.”
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This book is going to tank for sure.

UPDATE: The titles are after the reviews now. Those of us who are writers suddenly feel better about some of our own reviews.

71 thoughts on “You Can’t Please Everybody . . .

  1. 1 Princess Bride
    3 Pride and Prejudice
    4 Wuthering Heights
    5 Harry Potter

    I have no idea what 2 is – maybe Sound of Music or something? Whatever it is, it wasn’t suspenseful AT ALL!!

  2. 1. Princess Bride
    2. ?
    3. Austen, Sense and Sensibility?
    4. ? But really want to read now…
    5. Eragon or Harry Potter

    1. And we have a winner.
      Your prize is a vast sense of superiority, which we hope you will not use in the same way the reviewers above did.

  3. 1 princess bride
    2 Finding Nemo
    3 Pride and Prejudice
    4 Wuthering Heights
    5 Harry Potter series

    are my guesses.

  4. I’m going to guess:

    1. Princess Bride
    2. Jaws?
    3. Either Pride & Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility – it could go for either, honestly.
    4. Wuthering Heights, I think, and if so, I had largely the same thoughts when I read that book at 16.
    5. Harry Potter?

  5. I could be completely wrong, having never seen it, but is number 2 Jaws? Fish food was my only clue, and the fact that it was supposed to be scary/suspenseful.

  6. 1) Princess Bride
    2) Jaws
    3) Pride and Prejudice
    4) Wurthering Heights (confession: I agree with the scathing review)
    5) Harry Potter? or Percy Jackson?

  7. 1. Princess Bride
    2. Moby Dick?
    3. Pride and Prejudice
    4. I think Danielle got it with Wuthering Heights
    5. Harry Potter is probably it, but it works for an awful lot of movies/books — Pretty Woman comes to mind.

  8. 1. Princess Bride
    2. ??
    3. Little Women
    4. I think others got it with Wuthering Heights
    5. Harry Potter

  9. Oh, Jaws is almost definitely the correct answer. All I could think of was A Fish Called Wanda, I figured the reviewer read the name and got the plot entirely wrong. I could not figure out why they expected to be scared so Jaws is so much more sensible. I got Princess Bride and I’ve never seen the movie or read the book! Totally spaced on Harry Potter and Wuthering Heights, though.

  10. 1. Princess Bride
    2. ?
    3. Pride and Prejudice
    4. Wuthering Heights
    5. I was originally thinking Bridget Jones’ Diary, but it’s probably Harry Potter

  11. 1. Princess Bride
    2. Piranha (a noted classic in some people’s eyes)
    3.Sense and Sensibility
    4. Tess of D’Urbervilles
    5 Harry Potter

    1. Hah – I’d forgotten about Piranha. That movie terrified me when I saw it as a kid (my neighbor’s parents were less strict about appropriate movies than mine and I remember silently freaking out in her rec room). I’ve never re-watched it.

  12. What fun.
    1 – definitely Princess Bride
    2 – Jaws
    3 – either P&P or Little Women
    4 – I thought of Jane Eyre but I think Wuthering Heights fits better
    5 – There are a lot of books like this but Harry Potter seems most likely

  13. 2. – the review is awfully vague, leaving me to wonder if they actually watched the movie. My first thought is Moby Dick. Assuming they actually viewed the movie, if they went in thinking it was going to be scary that would explain the review.

    3. – Sense and Sensibility

    I once read a review of The Untouchables where someone complained that it was a lousy “gangster” movie. The bad guys weren’t bad enough I guess.

  14. Quick Rant:

    WHO THE HECK buys an R-rated movie called DIE HARD for a 3 year old?

    Ok, not quite a rant. More like a rhetorical ‘WTF!’

  15. My guesses are
    1) Princess Bride
    2) Jaws (only because I couldn’t think of anything else where people would be “fish food”)
    5) Harry Potter (First to come to mind, but it could fit a few others)

  16. I agree with BelleD and the Die Hard movie.
    1. Princess Bride
    2. My first thought was A Fish Called Wanda, because I would not have seen Jaws, but Jaws does fit better.
    3. I was torn between the 2 Austen stories, P&P and Sense and Sensibility
    4. I had no clue. Saw the movie years ago, but only remember the heartache at the end.
    5. Again, first thought was Pretty Woman but couldn’t connect the “Magical place”.

  17. 1. Well, I liked Shrek for this! The likable Spaniard gives it away. ๐Ÿ™‚
    2. I wanted this to be Wizard of Oz, until I got to the “fish food” part, and then I went with A Fish Called Wanda. But now that I read the comments, I think Jaws is right.
    3. It sure sounds like a parody of a review of P&P, but I can’t imagine this reader/reviewer reading that book. I just can’t.
    4. Wuthering Heights
    5. I didn’t read Harry Potter, but I saw the second or third movie. Even without parents, he didn’t strike me as a Cinderella figure. But then, reviewers can be nuts.
    Love the game!

      1. Okay, but only say it ONCE.

        That was the one that actually made me choke. The Die Hard review could be a joke–joke Amazon reviews can be wonderful–but that Princess Bride review was real.

  18. 1. The Princess Bride
    2. Finding Nemo?
    3. Pride & Prejudice
    4. Great Expectations!
    5. Too many options to venture a guess, but Harry Potter sounds good, but so does the Wizard of Ox.

  19. Great game! Interesting that almost everyone (me too) agrees on ## 1 and 3 but the rest have more dispersal. I think that #5 is Princess Diaries. Harry Potter just doesn’t strike me as a ‘Cinderella’ remake.

  20. I think #3 has to be Pride and Prejudice, because there are only three sisters in Sense and Sensibility.

    I always read the 1 star reviews for ne . If they are all crazy I give the book a try.

  21. Oh Goody. I’m sure everyhas them all by now but here are my guesses:

    1) The Princess Bride (I love Montego)
    2) Jaws
    3) Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility
    4) I can’t think of what this is but I know I’m going to kick myself when I see it.
    5) Ditto Number four!

  22. I guessed the same as almost everyone else before seeing the answers…

    1)princess bride
    2) jaws (fishfood being the only thing I have to work with)
    3) pride and predjudice
    4) wuthering heights
    5) Could apply to anything, my first guess was Peter Pan but it could be the Narnia series, the water babies and (as everyone has pointed out) Harry Potter. The trope is a classic for a reason.

  23. I get the Jenny blogs sent to my email addy, so I came up with my answer before reading all the other comments. You see, this is why I love this blog. There are so many interesting people lurking about in the comment section. I had the same list (Princess Bridge, Jaws, P&P, WH and I thought it was likely Harry Potter) but some of you offered very interesting additional possibilities for #5. And Annamal added a good point about tropes–they’re classic for a reason.

    I really really hate Wuthering Heights. Not germane to the point, but I just don’t get a lot of chances to air that opinion:-)

    1. I can never understand the massive love Wuthering Heights gets from people- besides being completely self-absorbed, Heathcliff’s a frickin’ puppy killer!

      1. Yay! It’s not just me! When I read this in college, I wondered how the hell it was called a Romance. I hated that book, have never watched a movie version and won’t ever. It’s a terrible book. *curtsy*

        1. It’s not a romance, at least not until you get to the second half and then that’s a subplot, but I love that book, especially the second Catherine. It’s as if Bronte had written a traditional Gothic with the nineteenth century girl-in-the-fridge, and then wrote it all over again with a heroine who gets it right; the second Catherine does the rewrite on her mother’s life, including the fix of not being nuts. And then in the end she gets everything because she’s a fighter who keeps her humanity. Brilliant book.

          1. I’ve never read it and never wanted to, but after that recommendation maybe it’s worth a read. So long as I focus on her instead of Heathcliff, maybe I’ll enjoy it (he sounds like an asshole, and since I couldn’t stand Rochester in Jane Eyre, I don’t have high hopes for my tolerance of Heathcliff).

          2. Think of the same way you think of Macbeth. And cheer for the younger Catherine.
            Or just skip the whole thing. I still can’t get through Moby Dick.

  24. 3. is definitely Jane Austen. But Seinfeld was supposed to be about nothing too, but highly successful. But you can’t put a brain in a carving. Unless it’s Pinocchio ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. I had
    1) Princess Bride – it was a given even before I got to “True Love” or it should be “Twue Wuv”
    2) Jaws was my guess but I also thought of a Fish Called Wanda.
    3) I was guessing Pride & Prejudice
    4) I had nothing. It has been far to long since I read Wuthering Heights to remember
    5) I saw the first comment by then so agreed with her and Harry Potter, but also considered Narnia series except they weren’t orphans.

    Why would someone buy an ‘R’ rated movie for their 3 year old?

  26. Got ’em all except #4, which I also initially thought Great Expectations except Pip isn’t at all alpha. I wonder if I missed it *because* I kind agree with the reviewer that Heathcliff is a psychopath.

  27. 1) The Princess Bride
    2) Jaws?
    3) Sense and Sensibility
    4) ???
    5) Harry Potter?

    This was FUN. Jenny, thank you for the great post! I am going to print this and add it to my writing idea journal as a reminder that every reader is not my reader and that doesn’t make my ideas less interesting.

    Also, I’m a teacher, so I’m totally stealing this exercise for class.

  28. I still think #2 is Finding Nemo rather than Jaws. But I do like the inclusion of Piranha. I’ve seen the original and the more recent remake, but not Piranha 3DD yet. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I got #1, one of the possibles for #3, but I like Little Women for it now that has been mentioned. I had no idea for #4, but then as I mentioned earlier, I hated Wuthering Heights and have not read it since college. And I figure #5 as Harry Potter, but there are so many good answers for that one.

    Fun game, Jenny! Thank you!

  29. Some of these have to be trolls. They HAVE to be.
    1. Princess Bride
    2. Finding Nemo? That was my first thought, but looking at the comments I’m thinking Jaws or Fish Called Wanda are plausible, too. Though if you weren’t scared by any part of Jaws, I bow to you for you must be the one true badass.
    3. Pride and Prejudice or any of its remakes (Bride and Prejudice, anyone?)
    4. No clue because there are just so many that fit. Let’s go with Wuthering Heights because lots of others seem to think that one, too. Except now I’m wondering if it’s going to be one that’s just totally off the wall, like Muppet Babies or something.
    5. Harry Potter. The number of reviews that call it a rip-off…

  30. Totally agree with the Wuthering Heights review, and then some. I think only someone who has seen the movie and not read the book (like Holly Golightly — or was that only in the movie?) could see it as a romance. Jasper Fforde nailed it Well of Lost Plots.

    Harry Potter likely for 5, but probably many other books too. Anne of Green Gables, for example.

    I like the suggestions, above, of Moby Dick for #2

    1. Answers are up now.
      And I really disagree with her about Irene Adler. I thought that characterization was marvelous, that entire episode brilliant. And Irene was pretty clearly an adventuress in the original. That episode wasn’t about sexuality any more than Irene’s job was about sex.

      1. I agree that Irene in the original was an adventuress and I thought having her be a dominatrix in the update was brilliant. But I agree with the LJer that it’s a mess to have her be any kind of love interest for Holmes. I quite like how in the, I think it was Jeremy Brett, Sherlock Holmes TV series, Irene has her own meaningful life with a man who adores her as she deserves, thankyouverymuch.

        1. I always thought that ending was Arthur Conan Doyle falling in love with Irene instead of Sherlock; he was so enamored of her character that he gave her a happy Victorian ending instead of leaving her free and adventuring. Like Sayers falling in love with Wimsey.
          But again, I’m biased by my love of the Sherlock Irene.

  31. 1. The Princess Bride
    2. I first thought Scary Movie, but I think the others are right with Jaws
    3. Pride and Prejudice
    4. Wuthering Heights
    5. I agree the last one is probably Harry Potter

    Here’s one: Do not read this book. There was absolutely nothing about answering how long it would take to go by boat or by tomorrow. Doesn’t make sense? It doesn’t have to make sense it is all fantasy. And what’s this thing about hairy feet? Oh yes, the Joy of Cooking was never mentioned as being on [main character’s] cook book shelf in his … house. Very disappointing. I would have given the book 0 stars but this isn’t an option.

    Or this one: This is one of the only movies that I will turn off before it’s finished. Although I did have to watch the rest of it so I can say I watched [it]. This movie is horrible! It is so boring and unoriginal that I can’t stand it. The only good thing about it is the cast. How is it boring? Because all they do is talk. The only moment I felt enthralled is where [male lead] flashbacked to Paris and the end. That’s it. The rest is a bunch of talking and ordering the African-American around. Now I know it’s old but it’s not based on the Civil War. It’s during World War II. A lot of people, including blacks, got killed so the studios could make this awfulness. How is it unoriginal? It’s about a love triangle. You take away the locale and the nazis and that’s all it is. Besides, there’s absolutely no chemistry between [the actors]. They looked more uncomfortable than in love. According to the AFI this movie is #2 in the best movies of all time. It’s right above The Godfather. Say it isn’t so say it isn’t so.

    1. Second one is Casablanca, I think.

      First one? Hairy feet is hobbits, right? But then there’s The Joy of Cooking, so no idea.

      1. Yep, you nailed it.
        1) The Hobbit (I have no idea about the Joy of Cooking, that’s just the review weirdness.)
        2) Casablanca

        1. That is a truly strange review. Was Joy of Cooking even around when Tolkein wrote the Hobbit? Probably actually, so I’m going to go check Wikipedia. Ok, Joy of Cooking came out the year before the Hobbit, good to know. BUT STILL. I DOUBT THEY GET THE LATEST BOOKS IN THE SHIRE. BECAUSE MIDDLE EARTH IS NOT REAL.

  32. I popped over last night and saw how smart all of the Argh people are, and I agreed with the majority, so I didn’t leave my answers. The only one I was unsure on was #5. I loved that review of Wuthering Heights though. Great post!

  33. What a lot of fun! I think it takes a special skill set to be able to distinguish between a real review and a troller . . . I always give people the benefit of the doubt if I can’t tell — if it really is a troller, I find that it’s actually funnier that way (to me, at least).

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