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‘Atlas Shrugged,’ the Critics Slammed

Famously hard to adapt, Ayn Rand’s novel results in a film that barely escapes zero percent Rotten Tomatoes rating

Last Updated: April 15, 2011 @ 10:42 AM

Just when it was looking as if the makers of "Atlas Shrugged, Part One" were going to need Armond White to ride to the rescue, they found a White substitute in Kyle Smith.

The famously contrarian White is well-known for being the lone voice of dissent when the movie critics all agree – and until Smith chimed in at the New York Post, all the critics were in agreement about the first part of a proposed trilogy drawn from Ayn Rand's massive novel: it stinks.

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Atlas ShruggedThe book, about some brave individualists struggling to survive in a society that's crumbling because of overbearing government interference, may be an "Objectivist" manifesto often beloved by libertarians and Tea Partiers, but the movie found itself with a zero percent positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes before Smith's review came in; now it's at a hefty six  percent positive.

That ties "Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son" for the year's second-worst rating, and trails only "The Roommate," which has a four percent rating.

That's not good company for a film that has some political heat courtesy of the Tea Partiers. Producer John Aglialoro and director/actor Paul Johansson rushed the film into production to capitalize on that heat, and on a book whose sales figures rose in the wake of the financial crisis.

But Rand's work has been famously hard for Hollywood to handle, and the reviews suggest that this newest attempt is one more failed attempt.

A few of the notices:

"Crushingly ordinary in every way," wrote the Tribune Company's Michael Phillips.

"[A] mess, full of embalmed talk, enervated performances, impoverished effects, and cinematography that would barely pass muster in a TV show," wrote Kurt Loder on the libertarian site Reason Online.

"The acting is so poor and the story so badly told that the viewer's feelings about Rand's novel … are almost immaterial," said Bill Goodykoontz in the Arizona Republic.

Smith, meanwhile, called it "more compelling than the average mass-produced studio item." But even he admitted that it is "a bit stiff in the joints" "acted by an undistinguished cast amid TV-movie trappings," and burdened with "stilted dialogue and stern, unironic hectoring."

But, you know, other than that he thinks it's good.