Los Angeles—If you love movies, nothing is more fun than going to Rotten Tomatoes, the film review aggregation site, and seeing what films have worked and which ones haven't. The data offer endless possibilities for mischief and enlightenment. A couple of years ago I kept a running tab on every film released by 20th Century Fox, seeing how long the studio could go without distributing a film that actually topped the 50 fresh rating mark at Rotten Tomatoes.
More recently, someone at the Marginal Revolution economics blog composed a graph of all of the Rotten Tomatoes scores for Night Shyamalan's films, starting with "The Sixth Sense" and ending with "The Last Airbender." It was a great sight gag because the graph went only in one direction -- straight down.
They also created an interactive game, using something that Slate calls a Hollywood Career-o-Matic chart, which allows readers to map the career of any leading actor or filmmaker, based on their aggregated movie-review scores from Rotten Tomatoes. You can type in more than one choice, so you can track how different careers compare with one another. I tried it with a number of actors and was amazed to discover how few actors had any semblance of consistent scores -- nearly every graph gyrated wildly up and down, reminding us how difficult it is to successfully manage a movie career.
The Slate duo also discovered all sorts of odd statistical revelations, the most intriguing being that if you did a graph of overall Rotten Tomatoes scores of movies from 1910 through today, the numbers start out amazingly high, then slowly drop with each passing decade. Films from the 1920s average a 92 fresh rating; films from the 1990s average a 55 rating. It appears that critics are far more partial to old movies than ones today.
But of course, what everybody wants to know is the juicy stuff: By Career-o-Matic standards, who is the worst actor, actress and filmmaker of all time? (Or more accurately, since 1985, an arbitrary date the Slate duo used to strip away the nostalgia factor). The worst actor is, quite plausibly, Chuck Norris, who tops the list with an average score of 18.4 since 1985.
The worst actress is Jennifer Love Hewitt, who accomplished the impressive feat of never having made a film that earned a fresh rating (higher than 60) on Rotten Tomatoes. Her average score was 18.9, thanks to her presence in a host of horror thrillers and both "Garfield" movies.
The lowest scoring director was Dennis Dugan, who hit rock bottom by repeatedly making Adam Sandler movies, including "Grown Ups," which had a 10 fresh rating and "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," which earned a 14 score. The best director award went to Mike Leigh, who has a lifetime average of 92.1. The highest rated American director was Ethan Coen, with an 84.3.
Of course, statistics can only prove so much. Here's what I want to know: What would happen if Mike Leigh directed an Adam Sandler movie? Would he actually give Sandler's Rotten Tomatoes ratings a boost? Or would Sandler drag Leigh down with him, like he did with James Brooks in "Spanglish?"
I have a feeling that's a question that even the wondrous Hollywood Career-o-Matic charts can't answer.