As far as present-day film critics go, there’s the old folks, such as Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin; the pseudo-hip like Peter Travers; and rising star Jackson Murphy.
Haven’t heard of him? Give it a few years—or, at least until he graduates from the eighth grade.
The 11-year-old “Kid Critic” from upstate New York first gained state-wide popularity from his movie reviews that air weekly on “Your News Now,” a regional station that broadcasts in the cities of Albany, Schenectady and Troy. After recent appearances on “The Early Show,” “The Today Show” and “Fox and Friends,” Murphy is quickly winning over filmgoers everywhere, even ones as high profile as aforementioned critics Ebert and Maltin and television personality Regis Philbin.
Informative yet enthusiastic, Murphy delivers his reviews with a bright grin and exudes an undeniable passion for the art form that he has enjoyed since he was born. And it shows: Last April, Murphy became the youngest person to win a New York Emmy, which he was awarded for his review segments.
Murphy’s written reviews are printed as a weekly column in the local Troy, N.Y. newspaper, The Record, and can also be found on his Website, www.lights-camera-jackson.com, along with his blog, which comments on the latest news out of Hollywood.
Not yet of age to watch a PG-13 film—though he will review them from time to time—Murphy mostly focuses on family-oriented movies, with a penchant for animation.
“I’ve grown up with so many great Disney and Pixar animated films, and I’ve loved some of the animated films that have come out in recent years,” says Murphy. “Some of them have been big disappointments, but this year, with Toy Story 3, Shrek 4 and How to Train Your Dragon, and last year have been great years for animation.”
Calling from his home in New York, Murphy squeezed in an interview with MovieMaker between a trip to the local cinema to see Knight and Day and the broadcast of the Daytime Emmy Awards, hosted by friend Regis Philbin. He’s sure one busy kid, but don’t worry: Murphy assures us that he never—okay, rarely—goes to a movie on a school night.
Lauren Barbato (MM): How did you get started doing film reviews? You are pretty young…
Jackson Murphy (JM): I was seven years old. I’d been going to local Radio Disney events and the people had noticed me going to them and doing certain things and they wanted to have me do something with them. So they offered, ‘How about you do family movie reviews?’ I said, “Sure, let’s go with it and see what happens.” That’s how I really got started, and then the Website and then the television show.
MM: What’s the first film you reviewed?
JM: Hoodwinked! It was an animated film that was kind of a spin-off—or, in a way, rip-off—of a very good one, the classic Little Red Riding Hood fairytale. It was very funny, had a lot of good voices in it—Anne Hathaway and Glenn Close—and was from The Weinstein Company. Now, they were thinking about doing a Hoodwinked! sequel, which I’m like, ‘First film I ever reviewed, great. Now I’m going to get to review the sequel.’ But it hasn’t been released yet. They’ve been pushing it back, and they had marketing troubles, so who knows what’s going to happen. But I liked the first Hoodwinked! a lot. I gave it a B+.
MM: What does a B+ mean in your grading system?
JM: It’s the first step below an A, so a B+ is pretty good. I enjoyed it, it’s likable and it’s nearly a perfect movie but it still has a few things that don’t make it an A film.
MM: What’s your weekly reviewing process like?
JM: On Friday night I go to the movie and watch it. I write notes on the way home in the car, and then right when I get home, I write the review, do the editing process on the computer and post it on to my Website. Early the next morning I wake up, get my notes out and look them over, then go to the television station about 10 o’clock in the morning and tape my segment. Then I come home and usually the next day, Sunday, I record the review and send them to the local Radio Disney station [WDDY, Albany] to play the next weekend.
MM: Wow, you’re a busy kid.
JM: I know. Friday to Sunday, that whole weekend is very busy. I also transfer most of the review into the column for the newspaper and send it to them. So it’s very busy.
MM: Which summer movie were or are you most excited to see this year?
JM: From the beginning of both the summer and this year, I was most excited about Toy Story 3. I was very pleased that it was a phenomenal film. I gave it an A.
MM: Why did you rate it so high?
JM: I liked the experience of watching Woody, Buzz and the gang back on the big screen in this emotional film, this emotional story. It moved me more than the other two films. I’ve been so attached to these characters; I’ve grown up with these movies, watching them over and over and over again. Just seeing them back on the big screen in this emotional story with a big climax—Andy’s going to college, what’s going to happen to the toys?—and in 3-D, I just felt, ‘Wow, I am very lucky to see this kind of movie.’
MM: Has there been a summer movie that disappointed you this year?
JM: Yeah, there were some bad ones, starting out with Robin Hood. I was kind of surprised how boring it was; the action scenes just weren’t entertaining. The same thing goes for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It was so weird because Alfred Molina is in the movie and he’s petting an ostrich; that’s the only thing I’ll remember from Prince of Persia.
I was also surprised by The Karate Kid: It didn’t have enough of a positive message. There were several scenes where Jayden Smith’s character is getting beaten up and it’s graphic—it’s actually really graphic—but there are some good chemistry scenes between Smith and Jackie Chan.
Also, I just saw Grown Ups—not really funny. I was hopeful because I’ve seen Kevin James and Chris Rock and Adam Sandler in other movies that were better than this. But I was very disappointed. A lot of adult humor and body part humor, and little kids are involved in these scenes! Little kids would not like [this movie] at all. There are a lot of scenes where people are getting hit in the private parts and, I mean, we’ve seen that over and over again in Hollywood. I’m getting sick of it!
MM: What makes a good comedy then?
JM: Jokes that are appealing to the audience. Timely jokes that deal with what’s happening in the world today, and jokes that just make people laugh and smile at the screen. Also, I think it needs a good script. For films that are mainly comedies, they need a good script and they need writers who know what they’re talking about in order to come up with some good jokes.
MM: What’s your opinion on 3-D: Good or bad?
JM: I think 3-D is the future of movies. Some movies overdo it with the 3-D, but that was more in the olden days where they’re throwing things at the screen every other second. Nowadays, 3-D works with stories like Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon.
MM: Does it ever fail?
JM: They’re shooting 3-D with live action now and sometimes it doesn’t work. Like Clash of the Titans, they originally shot the film in 2-D, then after they shot it and edited it, they put in 3-D and it took only eight weeks—that’s not how you do it. So sometimes it does fail, but I think at least 50 percent—or maybe more—of films in five or 10 years from now will be in 3-D.
MM: I saw on your blog that you commented on the Academy’s potential decision of moving the Oscars broadcast earlier in the year. How will this affect the Oscars?
JM: If they want [the Oscars] to be earlier and closer to all the big movies to get more ratings, I honestly think it’s a smart move. But there’s not going to be that much of a window or buzz between the Globes and the Oscars anymore; there’s not going to be that much time for people to really think about it. This year with the Globes, Avatar won [Best] Director and Picture; eight weeks later at the Oscars, The Hurt Locker won Best Director and Picture. It’s going to be interesting when the window gets smaller who the winners are going to be.
MM: Do you have a favorite film critic?
JM: Favorite film critic, wow. Roger Ebert is probably my favorite. I remember watching him when I was younger. I liked him, I liked his personality, I liked his style. I liked the whole “At the Movies” with Ebert and Roper—the thumbs up, the thumbs down, the “finger of shame.” He’s been one of my idols over the last several years and inspired me to do what I do today.
MM: This is always a tough question: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
JM: Ever since I was young, I loved the 1991 Disney animated classic Beauty and the Beast for several reasons. The colors, the animation is fantastic. There’s likable characters, a fantastic story, great appeal—you can relate to these characters and you can relate to this movie. Overall, it’s a fun, enjoyable, exciting movie to watch. If you’re having a bad day, Beauty and the Beast will brighten your day. I’ve loved the movie ever since I was born.