For 628 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 47% higher than the average critic
  • 1% same as the average critic
  • 52% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 4 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

David Denby's Scores

  • Movies
  • TV
Average review score: 66
Highest review score: 100 Hugo
Lowest review score: 10 Dreamcatcher
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 47 out of 628
628 movie reviews
    • 39 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Poky but often charming.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Has some of the wittiest writing Sayles has ever done for the movies and some of the best acting he's ever coaxed out of his performers, and the picture is a pleasant, if unexciting, experience. [8 July 2002, p.84]
    • The New Yorker
    • 68 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    That the story is true (and based on an expertly written book by Jonathan Harr) doesn't make A Civil Action any more satisfying dramatically -- there's a streak of obviousness in the moral melodrama that dampens one's interest.
    • 45 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    As an evocation of danger, the movie seems threatening yet is nowhere near serious or intelligent enough to satisfy our current sense of alarm. [3 June 2002, p. 100]
    • The New Yorker
    • 67 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The movie goes like the wind, but it's more a technological exercise than anything else.
    • 45 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Pfeiffer digs into the role and won't let go. The rest of the movie is conventionally earnest.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Smart, willful, and perverse, this Frida is nobody's servant, and the tiny Hayek plays her with head held high. You may want to laugh now and then, but you won't look away. [11 November 2002, p. 195]
    • The New Yorker
    • 75 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The other Grant, the irresistible but slippery Cary, was called to account by such strenuous and willful mates as Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, and Ingrid Bergman. But Hugh Grant has never been matched with a woman who directly challenged his oddly recessive charm. [3 June 2002, p. 100]
    • The New Yorker
    • 74 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The most confidently professional work Soderbergh has ever done, but it's also the least adventuresome and emotionally vital. It vanishes faster than a shot of bourbon. [Dec 10 2001, p. 110]
    • The New Yorker
    • 67 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Slamming different kinds of experience together, Lee tries to do with montage what he cannot do with dramatic logic.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Lucas shifts back and forth between this kind of original invention and a dependence on pompous dead-level dreck, a grade-B cheapness that he's obviously addicted to. [20 May 2002, p. 114]
    • The New Yorker
    • 49 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    I don't believe that anyone will have much trouble seeing what's wrong with the picture, but it's one of those bad movies that you remember with a smile a year later. [9 September 2002, p. 162]
    • The New Yorker
    • 72 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The movie is strange and muddled -- a disorganized epic -- but Day-Lewis, disporting himself with royal assurance, does what he can to hold it together. [23 & 30 December 2002, p. 166]
    • The New Yorker
    • 54 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Structurally a mess and unevenly made, but the first forty minutes or so are quite beautiful. [7 July 2003, p. 84]
    • The New Yorker
    • 52 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    This movie, though perfectly pleasant, does not have a great script.
    • The New Yorker
    • 70 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    In the end, this odd, beautiful movie is remote and more suggestive than satisfying--a coolly impassive film about catastrophe made at a time when some of us might prefer an attempt at explanation. And yet Elephant is something to see. [27 October 2003, p. 112]
    • The New Yorker
    • 47 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    At its best, the picture is violently exciting; at its worst, banal and monotonous. Yet the relative absence of mighty significances did not prevent the Matricians sitting all around me--mostly men aged about thirty--from remaining utterly still, as if at a High Mass, throughout the movie. [10 November 2003, p. 128]
    • The New Yorker
    • 69 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The crud and petty desperation of The Cooler is enjoyable as atmosphere, and the movie is passionate. [12 January 2004, p. 86]
    • The New Yorker
    • 66 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Harmless, but it gave me a pain. Why make such a fuss over middle-aged bodies anyway? [22 & 29 December 2003, p. 166]
    • The New Yorker
    • 45 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The fight against traditionalism has long been won, so the movie’s indignation feels superfluous, but Mike Newell’s direction is solid, the period décor and costumes are a sombre riot of chintz and pleated skirts, and the movie has an air of measured craft and intelligence. [22 & 29 December 2003, p. 166]
    • The New Yorker
    • 62 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Saved! is a minor work, yet it has a teasing lilt to it, and to make it at all took courage and originality. [31 May 2004, p. 88]
    • 76 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The movie is overwrought and unfocussed.
    • 50 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    This movie, taken all together, is one of the most bizarre combinations of distinguished talent and inane ideas that I've ever seen.
    • 56 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Has a slapdash feeling to it.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    It’s the right role for Cruise, but the movie is so devoted to him, so star-driven, that it begins to seem a little demented.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    I couldn't imagine anyone better suited to play the role. But this movie is a lot less interesting than it might be. Though it's not bad--in fact, it's rather sweet--it's too simple a portrait of a very complicated and calculating entertainer.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    This Kong is high-powered entertainment, but Jackson pushes too hard and loses momentum over the more than three hours of the movie. The story was always a goofy fable--that was its charm--and a well-told fable knows when to stop.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The Matador teeters between comedy and moral inquiry but doesn't quite make it either way. The movie features a startling performance, however, by Pierce Brosnan.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    It's about guns and sex and fast boats, and, baffling as it is at times, it's still the kind of brutal fantasy that many of us relish a great deal more than yet another aerated digital dream.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The Ground Truth is an emotionally potent work, but the great study of an Iraq vet, in either documentary or fictional form, has yet to be made.
    • 45 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    In 2002, Carnahan made an intense and violent little cop film, "Narc," with Jason Patric and Ray Liotta. He seemed to have absorbed the influences of John Cassavetes and Martin Scorsese and come up with a style of his own. I was a fan of that movie, but Smokin’ Aces feels like Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" pushed much further along into lethal absurdity.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The movie won't do much for anyone who doesn't have an academic or fanboy absorption in junk.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The movie's meaning seems to be: we're all crippled in some way, so just live with it--celebrate it, even. That isn't satire; it's moss-brained sentiment that turns "sensitivity" into a dimly dejected view of life.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The plot material isn't as strong as in the first two movies--if anything, it feels a bit desperate--but the anti-Disney joke blunderbuss remains in good working order.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Ben Affleck probably respects Lehane the genre writer (there are five books with Patrick Kenzie as the hero) more than he should. He also has some way to go before he becomes a good director of action.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The boyfriend, one Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), a Brit rocker and professional sex god, turns out to be the best thing in the movie.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    An obscene, ridiculous, and occasionally very funny movie, and if it ever gets to the Middle East it will roil the falafel tables on both sides of the Arab-Israeli divide.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    It's nothing we haven't seen done better before (by Paul Greengrass in the recent "Bourne Ultimatum," for instance), but it's good enough as kinetic entertainment.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Crowe has an animal quickness and sensitivity, a threatening way of penetrating what someone is up to, a feeling for weakness in friends as well as opponents. He seems every inch a great journalist; it's not his fault that the filmmakers let the big story slip through their fingers.
    • 42 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is what my mother would have called a kakabarly--a large, foaming broth into which she emptied the forlorn and highly miscellaneous contents of her icebox.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Yet, for all its skill, Public Enemies is not quite a great movie. There’s something missing--a sense of urgency and discovery, a more complicated narrative path, a shrewder, tougher sense of who John Dillinger is.
    • 47 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    A very strange, often terrible affair that is nevertheless mesmerizing, in a limited way.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    One of the main virtues of John Rabe is to demonstrate that, however much we know about the worst of all wars, it still has little-known corners that can amaze us.
    • 61 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Inside the stony exterior of The American beat some tired old ideas about innocence and redemption. How can you make an intellectual thriller and put a whore with a heart of gold in it?
    • 51 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Two winter-season entertainments -- "Haywire" and Contraband with the minimalist but inexorable Mark Wahlberg -- have no greater ambition than to engage our dreams of behaving badly. Of the two, Contraband is the more absorbing. [30 Jan. 2012, p.79]
    • The New Yorker
    • 72 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The French creators of the dance numbers take their work very seriously; they speak of it in terms that would have shamed George Balanchine. That they are sincere in their ideas, however, doesn't mean that they aren't provincial in their own way and long out of date; nor does it mean, to our astonishment, that their show isn't repetitive, solemn, and slightly boring.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Seven Psychopaths is the kind of movie that can lift someone who's had a crappy day out of a funk. It's an unstable mess filled with lunatic invention and bizarre nonsense, and some of it is so spontaneous that it's elating. [22 Oct. 2012, p.88]
    • The New Yorker
    • 81 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    It would be lovely to announce that the new Bond movie is scintillating, or at least rambunctiously exciting, but Skyfall, in the recent mode of Christopher Nolan's "Batman" films, is a gloomy, dark action thriller, and almost completely without the cynical playfulness that drew us to the series in the first place. [12 Nov. 2012, p.94]
    • The New Yorker
    • 62 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    42
    Sixty-six years later, when a black man holds the Presidency, equality may still be, for some, unbearable, but Robinson abruptly moved America forward. 42, however limited at times, lays out the tortured early days of that advance with clarity and force.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The Butler is a lightweight, didactic movie, a kind of well-produced high-school entertainment.
    • 51 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Peter Sarsgaard, with an oozing voice and a wolfish smile, is a terrific creep, and Hank Azaria and Bobby Cannavale have fun overplaying porn-world figures, but the movie, at its center, remains unawakened.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    Fiennes and his team have mounted a handsome re-creation of Victorian England, but the Dickens-Ternan affair isn't much of a story -- at least, not as realized here. [6 Jan. 2014, p.73]
    • The New Yorker
    • 88 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The Grand Budapest Hotel is no more than mildly funny. It produces murmuring titters rather than laughter -- the sound of viewers affirming their own acumen in so reliably getting the joke. [10 March 2014, p.78]
    • The New Yorker
    • 78 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The memoir is strongly written, and I wish that the movie, directed by John Curran (Marion Nelson did the adaptation), had more excitement to it.
    • 72 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The Theory of Everything makes a pass at the complexities of love, but what’s onscreen requires a bit more investigation.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 60 David Denby
    The scenery, of course, could stop the heart of a mountain goat, and Wild has an admirable heroine, but the movie itself often feels literal-minded rather than poetic, busy rather than sublime, eager to communicate rather than easily splendid.
    • 33 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    This disposable date movie is not so much written and acted as cast—just about every young actor in the country is in it.
    • 65 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Yet as art this revisionist movie, grimly effective as some of it is, doesn't hold a candle to the remarkable cycle of pictures in the late seventies and the eighties which captured the discordant character of a tragic war. [11 Mar 2002, p. 92]
    • The New Yorker
    • 69 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    The movie holds one in its surly grip, but when it's over, few people, I think, are likely to be haunted by it. Futility may work as a mood in a short story, but in a full-scale movie it doesn't bear looking at for very long. (29 Oct 2001, p. 92)
    • The New Yorker
    • 59 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Elegant nonsense. For some years, it's been clear that De Palma's work has lost the jolting intellectual energy and wit of his "Carrie" and "Dressed to Kill" days, and in Femme Fatale the Master is just diddling. [25 November 2002, p. 108]
    • The New Yorker
    • 53 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    The filmmakers peddle fear and then try to claim the moral high ground; the treatment is foolish, confused, and borderline irresponsible.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    I enjoyed parts of "Wedding," and I'm not about to tell people that they should not have enjoyed it. I'm just afraid that Hollywood will respond to its success by making many more sitcoms in the guise of movies. [23 Sept 2002, p. 98]
    • The New Yorker
    • 59 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    LaBute's didactic purpose kills any possibility of frivolous entertainment. [19 May 2003, p. 94]
    • The New Yorker
    • 68 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Damon may be too young, too unformed, to play an amnesiac. Gazing at that blank face, we can't imagine that Bourne has any experiences or memories to forget. [17 & 24 June 2002, p. 176]
    • The New Yorker
    • 32 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    There is evidence that at some point this project (which was initiated by Oliver Stone) might have been serious, but Campbell has produced little more than a churning, vivid backdrop for romance. [10 November 2003, p. 129]
    • The New Yorker
    • 55 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Zwick can’t find anything fresh in this deeply pious East-meets-West stuff. The movie comes close to dying between battle scenes. [8 December 2003, p. 139]
    • The New Yorker
    • 71 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    The ineluctable downward pull of absolutely everything in this movie is more exasperating than moving. [12 January 2004, p. 86]
    • The New Yorker
    • 77 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    O.K. for children.
    • 43 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    The latest minimalist provocation from the infuriating but talented French director Bruno Dumont. [12 April 2004, p. 89]
    • The New Yorker
    • 55 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    The Terminal is highly crafted whimsy; it lacks any compelling reason to exist, and its love story is a dud. Ever bashful when it comes to boy-girl stuff, Spielberg has structured the relationship between Amelia and Viktor to be as asexual as possible.
    • 67 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    For all its handsomeness and its occasional moments of piercing intelligence, it's a fundamentally depressing piece of work--not because it deals with tragic events and memories but because the characters seem hapless and even stupid, and the writer-director can't, or won't, take control.
    • 47 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    The plot of Silver City is movieish in the extreme, with filthy abandoned mines subbing for the bars and alleys of urban noir, but it’s no more than mild cheese--“The Big Sleep” or “Chinatown” without the malice, rigorous design, and narrative epiphanies.
    • 55 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Huckabees is the real thing--an authentic disaster--but the picture is so odd that it should inspire, in at least a part of the audience, feelings of fervent loyalty.
    • 55 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Apart from Blanchett's performance, Veronica Guerin is not very interesting. The movie offers a brainless Hollywood version of investigative journalism. [10 November 2003, p. 129]
    • The New Yorker
    • 37 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Considered as a sequel, Be Cool is not an insult, but it’s a lazy, rhythmless, and redundant piece of moviemaking.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    We're supposed to be overwhelmed by magic, but what we see is fancy film technique and a lot of strained whimsy.
    • 57 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Often quite beautiful. But Madagascar, which was directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, is mismanaged pretty much from start to finish.
    • 70 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    The young Welsh-born actor Christian Bale is a serious fellow, but the most interesting thing about him--a glinting sense of superiority--gets erased by the dull earnestness of the screenplay, and the filmmakers haven't developed an adequate villain for him to go up against.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Has an oddly amorphous and inconclusive feeling to it. We never do find out who Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal) is, and his best friend, Troy (Peter Sarsgaard), who shifts back and forth between sanity and hysteria, is a mystery, too.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Somehow the movie that Rob Marshall has made from Golden's novel is a snooze. How did he and the screenwriter, Robin Swicord, let their subject get away from them?
    • 57 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    When the credits were over at last, I sighed, and took away a moviegoer's fantasy of Ledger and Miller starting work again, far away from Venice and ball gowns, on something that might be worth seeing.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Unconvincing and ineffective; the many patches of ideological montage, growing like kudzu throughout the film, weaken the impact of its best moments.
    • 68 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    The trouble with Holofcener's scheme is that the center of the movie is dead. Olivia has no drives or hopes or powerful regrets. She has nothing to say, and Aniston does most of her acting with her lower lip.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Near the end of the journey, chronicling Sunni car bombers in Iraq, he (Baer) talks sorrowfully of Muslims killing Muslims, and he concludes that suicide bombing has lost any coherent political meaning and has taken on an irresistible life of its own as a glamorous cult.
    • 52 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    There are many scenes of mock-lucha wrestling, which become as boring as actual wrestling. Nacho Libre, naïvely made kids’ stuff, lacks such minor attributes as a decent script and supporting cast.
    • 64 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Is this a case of spectacularly rotten timing, or is something being kept from us? The account of why the friends cross the border isn’t very persuasive…The young men may be clueless, but the filmmakers’ habit of obfuscating key points makes us wonder whether somebody is lying.
    • 58 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    The audience decided to sell Snakes to itself, and that became the event--the actual movie could never have been more than another exploitation picture.
    • 69 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Babel is an infuriatingly well-made disaster.
    • 47 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Even judged by the not excessively demanding standards of middle-aged renovation fantasies, A Good Year isn’t much.
    • 50 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Wilson and the director, Steven Shainberg, draw on Arbus's family and on many elements from her life and her art, only to turn the material into feeble nonsense.
    • 54 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Estevez has made a vague gesture at a large, metaphoric structure without having the dramatic means to achieve it. His choreography of the panic and misery in the hotel after the shooting is impressive, and some of the actors do fine in their brief roles. But his script never rises above earnest banality, and we are constantly being taught little lessons in tolerance and humanity:
    • 59 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    In brief, I fell cheated by these clever, narrative-disrupting films. They seem to miss the point. After all, every fiction film is magical--an artifice devoted to “What if?”
    • 45 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    It's a peculiar movie, frantic and useless, with a hyperactive camera that gives us no more than fleeting impressions of Edie ecstatic at parties, Edie strung out on drugs, Edie lying mostly naked on a bed, with her skin splotchy from injections.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    The unexciting look and feel of the movie wouldn’t have bothered me if the filmmakers had penetrated Hanssen’s skull a little.
    • 53 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    A virtual textbook of action clichés.
    • 49 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    At key moments, Lucky You loses its nerve.
    • 62 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Soderbergh ends the movie with a few jokes, which is casual and neat but leaves you wondering whether the practice of making enormous movies about nothing isn't a little mad.
    • 45 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    This is one of the rare movies that are too sensitive for their own good.
    • 73 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    Sean Penn’s Into the Wild is certainly visual--it’s entirely too visual, to the point of being cheaply lyrical.
    • 66 Metascore
    • 50 David Denby
    The characters observe no boundaries, and neither does the movie--Baumbach hasn’t worked out the struggle between speaking and withholding, as Bergman did. People simply blurt out scathing remarks, so there’s little power in the revelations and betrayals. “Margot” is sensually as well as dramatically impoverished.

Top Trailers