by The Entire HBS/EFC Staff
"Shhh," says Nicky, "me no wikey film cwitics."
In Hollywood, there exists a special breed of screenwriter that is rarely seen or heard from in public. These screenwriters are what you might call the bottom-feeders of the screenwriting craft. Rarely do they lash out at movie critics, quite content to simply keep their heads down and cash their paychecks. Comedy genius Nick Swardson is apparently not one of those guys.
They’re the guys that are called on to do draft number seventeen of My Favorite Martian just three days before it’s supposed to go to camera, or pen some witty wisecracks for that “uproarious” new Matthew Lillard comedy, or slap a story on the latest Deuce Bigelow outing (“Hey, I know! This time he goes to Greenland!”). These “comedy hacks” make decent coin because they work fast, and they care not what their name is attached to. They’ll proudly pen a film that manages to barely crack double-digits on the Tomato-Meter, and when their latest work goes straight to video or stars Clint Howard or fails to even get through pre-production without having the plug pulled, they don’t care. Why? Because they got paid.
These screenwriters supply the bulk of what Hollywood pumps out today, and they’re one of the major reasons people are finding better things to do with their time than go to the movies. They generally keep their heads down because, well, you wouldn’t seriously want to attract attention to you if you were the guy that wrote Malibu’s Most Wanted, Grandma’s Boy and The Benchwarmers, would you?
But recently, it seems, one such bottom-feeder has decided to lash out, and has been sending off acidic emails to movie critics who don't much care for his work. (Man, that’d require a whole lot of emails.) Congratulations, Nick Swardson, you’re our Bonehead of the Month.
Here’s an email one of our writers, David Cornelius, received on Friday, April 21. It was sent from the email account of Allen Covert, Swardson’s writing buddy and star of Grandma’s Boy (You know him best as the dumbass in the Michael Jackson jacket in The Wedding Singer), but it was in fact from Swardson. Take a gander:
”Even though this is from Covert’s email, this is actually Nick Swardson. I just wanted to say congratulations on being another critic to slam Benchwarmers. I think it’s funny that you even feel the need to chime in your two cents and make yourself look so above it all. Yeah, their are fart jokes and boogers and diarreha references. And, yes, we laughed at them while we wrote them. As did all the kids who saw the movie because that’s who we made the movie for. I love Annie hall as much as the next guy but sometimes I like to stop and laugh at a fart. Anyway, continue being another genius film critic. I’ve gotta go back to making more movies for people to enjoy. And are you really going to slam my stand up? I've had 2 specials and countless late night appearances. I perform all over the country making people laugh. You're a pussy who writes online film reviews.”
The email concludes with Swardson’s personal Hotmail address, which we will not print here. The first question, of course, is: why is Swardson emailing us from Covert’s account? The second question, then, is: why does such a successful and powerful entertainer have to grab a freebie Hotmail account anyway? Question number three: what leads the guy who plays “gay hooker” on Reno 911! to have such a humorless and inordinately high opinion of himself? The final question? Why, that’s: how is it that a grown man who can’t correctly spell “there” (let alone “diarrhea”) is able to earn a career ... as a screenwriter?
Oh, but we kid because it’s easy. In fact, we here at EFC/HBS had a field day discussing the best possible response to this guy. We joked about how he could only find work at Adam Sandler’s “bong hits equal comedy” production company, Happy Madison. We scratched our heads over the idea that Benchwarmers was produced for kids -- which would probably make sense… if the flick wasn’t being advertised wall-to-wall, post-midnight, on such “kid-centric” cable stations as ESPN. We giggled over the notion of somebody making the R-rated Grandma’s Boy for kiddies, while plainly acknowledging that it simply couldn't have been written with anyone other than nine-year-olds in mind. And, finally, we pondered the immortal question of: If Swardson holds film critics in such obvious disdain ... why the hell does he sit up nights sending them emails??
And oh, how we marveled at his insistence that he makes movies for The Common Man, not The Uptight Film Critic. Consider, then, the rankings of Swardson’s movies over at IMDB, the place where Johnny Lunchpail gets to vote on every movie ever made: Malibu’s Most Wanted currently rates a 4.8 out of 10; Grandma’s Boy is 6.4/10; and The Benchwarmers sits at an impressive 5.4/10. When your career high comes in the form of Grandma’s Boy, you’ve got nowhere to go but up. Or to an NA meeting, whichever comes first.
(The “public digs us” argument always holds thin for Happy Madison productions. An experiment for you to try at home: ask around to see how many people loved Malibu’s Most Wanted. Heck, ask how many even remember Malibu’s Most Wanted.)
And for the record, over at Rotten Tomatoes, a website where every style of film critic imaginable hangs their collective hat, Malibu, Grandma, and Benchwarmer have scored approval ratings of 30%, 17%, and 13%, respectively.
Our biggest contention, however, comes with the idea that as film critics, we’re unable (or stubbornly unwilling) to appreciate a solid dick, poop, and/or fart joke. Do film critics instantly hate this sort of potty humor, or do they simply hate stunningly amateurish and horrifically infantile movies that offer nothing but crotches, boogers, and bongs? After all, we all loved The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but that’s a movie that has more than one laugh, an actual storyline, and no sign of Rob Schneider. There might well have been a fart in there somewhere, but we don’t remember because it wasn’t the central focus of the movie.
Maybe one day Swardson can get over the misguided notion that the people who hate his films are snobs -- and simply accept that fact that film critics bash his movies because the screenplays are atrociously written and woefully constructed, and the final products, when they're sneakily unleashed onto an unsuspecting public, absolutely reek of ineptitude.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Here’s the reply Dave Cornelius shot off, sending it to both Covert’s email and Swardson’s Hotmail account (as he wasn’t sure which one Nick would actually be checking):
Hi, it’s me, Mr. Above It All. I’m reading your email from way up here, surrounded by my dogeared copies of Cahiers Du Cinéma and my DVDs of the complete works of Fassbinder, and I’m suddenly curious why a man so confident in the quality of his work - timeless, well-loved classics such as “Malibu’s Most Wanted” and “Grandma’s Boy” - would bother to take the time out of his busy schedule, log on to his boss’ email (I’m assuming there’s something wrong with your freebie Hotmail account), and whine to an online film critic about how said critic didn’t understand the subtle nuances of David Spade getting hit in the balls by a robot butler, or squirting sunscreen into your own mouth while some guy from ESPN cracks a couple of fag jokes, or whatever else the frick you hoped to pass off as comedy in your latest cinematic adventure. I would assume you, someone with Two Specials! And Countless Late Night Appearances!, would not find the time in your hectic schedule to drop a note to call me a “pussy.”
You see, while you find it funny that I might have felt the need to report to the moviegoing public that the movie the studio didn't want anybody to see was actually not worth the ten bucks, I find it funny that you still have your panties all in a bunch several weeks after the movie got trashed in the press. I find it funny that a grown man actually has time in his day to whine about other people not liking him. I find it funny that you call me the pussy, when you’re the one hiding behind your boss’ email address.
And I find it funny that you tell me that you must “go back to making more movies for people to enjoy,” when I’m wondering how you can make more of something you’ve never made before.
Here’s this for an idea: instead of complaining to the people who point out just how much your movies suck, why not sit down, figure out how to avoid past mistakes, and try writing an actual funny, good, watchable movie for a change?
David Cornelius, Genius Film Critic"
As of this writing, Swardson has yet to reply… but Covert did. Here’s what Dave got from Grandma’s Boy himself:
"Hey it’s Covert this time I don’t know who you are or what you wrote but Nick is funny you seem to be very pompous. I like The benchwarmers and my family does as well. Apparently from looking at the box office a few others do as well. I am not trying to change the world or make movies to impress you. I am sorry for having a different sense of humor than you. Please lose this address."
What really pisses us off is the cowardice of this whole thing. Swardson emails Dave from Covert’s email, so that when one responds, one inevitably catches the attention of another goofball who’s not even involved, and this new one plays the “oh so mature” tip, hoping to make us feel like fools for responding to the harassment.
Well, we’re not buying it. Especially when you consider Swardson’s history of childish ranting and raving. Let’s hop into the Wayback Machine and head to a time (a few months ago) when Grandma’s Boy was being unleashed into the multiplexes. It turns out Swardson’s and Covert’s recent emails were downright genteel compared to the one Nick tossed at Eugene Novikov of the movie review site Film Blather. Eugene’s a pal of several EFC/HBS staffers, and he was quite willing to share the conversation he had with Swardson earlier this year, following the release of Grandma’s Boy (about which Mr. Novikov wrote: “Sitting through ‘Grandma’s Boy,’ I stared at the screen with what began as disbelief, became disgust, and finished as excruciating pain. The gags are not only infantile, but they are incompetently written and staged, rarely leading to actual punchlines” - check out the full review here.)
Here’s what Swardson had to say in an email sent to Film Blather this past January:
"Eugene Novikov is a dumb cunt, stuffed with dog shit. Thanks for sitting through my movie like Ebeneezer Scrooge. It’s a silly, raunchy comedy, with characters and situations people haven't seen before. I’m sorry it’s not fucking Annie Hall. And as far as a story. What the fuck was Napolean Dynamite about? Laugh at/with the characters, just like the audience seemed to do in your theater. Otherwise, don’t write a lame, empty review (Nick Goossen who? like he’s the only first time director). Adam Sandler, myself and everyone involved are successful, established comedians. We’ve spent years doing comedy. We’re smarter than you. You may think we’re stupid but we make people laugh, and isn’t that the point."
Now, we can go nuts over the “we’re smarter than you” comment (and what’s with the obsession with Annie Hall? Is that the only non-moron comedy that Swardson has ever seen?), but we’ll let Eugene’s reply to Swardson do the talking for us:
"Hmm, I think that might have stung a bit more had the movie made more than $3 million last weekend, and had it not been beaten out in per-screen average by “Bloodrayne,” une filme de Uwe Boll. But then again, “Bloodrayne” is funnier.
Looking forward to “The Benchwarmers,”
Now we’re in a battle of wits, with Eugene having all the ammo. Swardson’s final reply:
"Good point. But our budget was 5 million and we surpassed that yesterday, so actually it’s hardly a flop. Our marketing budget was next to nothing. Bloodrayne also had five times our budget. A lot of comedies, that are different, don't add up to box office (i.e. Office Space, Bottle Rocket and The Big Lebowski). And let's not take hacky digs like “Bloodrayne is funnier“. You said yourself that Grandma’s Boy got laughs in your theater.
I’m excited for Benchwarmers also."
Umm… did Nick Swardson, the guy whose performance in The Benchwarmers consisted almost entirely of squirting sunscreen into his mouth, just compare Grandma’s Boy to three of the most admired cult comedies of the 1990s? Why yes, yes he did. For perspective:
Bottle Rocket had a wide release of 49 theaters, grossed a total of $1,040,879, and ended up launching the rather impressive careers of Wes Anderson and the Wilson Brothers. Grandma’s Boy had a wide release of 2,016 theaters and grossed a total of $6,090,172 - a little less than six times what Bottle Rocket grossed, despite playing in 41 times the number of theaters.
Office Space had its widest release with 1,740 theaters in 1999 and grossed more than Grandma’s Boy did in its opening weekend ($4,231,727), and that was seven years ago, when ticket prices were cheaper. Final gross for Office Space: $10,827,810 - and that’s not counting the massive DVD sales, which is where that particular movie really took off.
The Big Lebowski (and we cannot believe we're actually referencing the Coen Brothers in an article about the dude who farted in Grandma's Boy) could be found in 1,235 theaters, and grossed $5,533,844 in its opening weekend eight years ago. Final gross: $17,451,873, and again, that’s not counting DVD sales for The Dude.
The fact that this guy has the balls to put Grandma’s Boy on the same marquee as Bottle Rocket, Office Space, and The Big Lebowski proves he needs to be kicked in them. What’s next? The Benchwarmers is in the same class as Field of Dreams? Or perhaps it’s actually better than The Natural or Bull Durham because it will outgross them?
Tell you what, Nick: You write a movie that's half as good as Bottle Rocket or The Big Lewbowski and we'll be the first website (in history) to call you a solid screenwriter. Till then, back to the scatology department with you. I believe there's some dishwashing liquid over there that might be worth shooting directly into your mouth.
But we’ve gotten off the point, which is this: Nick Swardson is a freaking crybaby. Perhaps he’s taken a cue from his cohort Rob Schneider, who once took out a full page ad in Variety in order to whine about columnist Patrick Goldstein making an easy crack about Schneider in the L.A. Times. It would seem that the whole Happy Madison Gang just can’t handle it when someone suggests they try to get their act together and make a movie people might actually want to see, instead of just mooching off Adam Sandler’s bank account in order to tell a bunch of random poop jokes.
Maybe the money’s gone to these idiots’ heads. Yeah, yeah, Swardson, we get the oh-so-subtle subtext of your emails: you're rich and you hang with Allen Covert and Rob Schneider (gee willickers!), making terrible movies that clueless people pay money to see, whereas we’re just online critics with no lives who think his movies suck. But what he fails to realize is, we’re the good guys here. We actively prevent people from paying money to see his work, whereas he actively creates work that will exploit the moron masses who can’t be bothered cracking open a newspaper before they plunk down a ten-spot to watch David Spade make with the sarcasm. We save hours and hours of innocent lives from being tortured with doody references and groin shots and such.
And the biggest difference between us and Swardson is this: We're honest. Check through our pages and you'll find a few positive reviews for all three of Nick's flicks, because we have an open-minded and eclectic mix of critics. We maintain that Nick is dishonest because he claims that Malibu's Most Wanted, Grandma's Boy, and The Benchwarmers are worthy of a $9.50 investment. And also, there's this: Every experienced filmmaker knows that A) you don't have to thank a critic for a positive review, because he's just doing his job, and B) you better not attack a critic for a negative review, particularly when he knows more about filmmaking than you do.
So to Nick Swardson, for not being able to take an honest hit from the critics whenever you crap out yet another unwatchable mess of a movie, you’re our Bonehead of the Month. Enjoy! And please, for the future: We'll probably hate your next movie, too. Stop emailing us.
Or, as our esteemed staffer Peter Sobczynski kept saying during all of this mess: “Who the fuck is Nick Swardson?” Exactly.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1805
originally posted: 04/26/06 13:42:28
last updated: 05/17/06 23:49:30