Let’s face it…Ron Howard is awful. Now, I don’t mean as a human being, because he seems like a heck of a nice guy. In fact, I ran into him once at an industry event, someone called him “Opie”, and he simply smiled and nodded, and took it with good nature. I respect him for that. But he’s a terrible director. Or he’s become a terrible director. Nah…he’s most likely always been terrible, it’s just more glaring as he gets older. But why do most people look at me funny when I say it? His reputation has taken a pounding in recent years…and it wasn’t all that strong to begin with. Folks seem to believe he’s more honored then he actually is. Take his newly released “Inferno” as an example. It has a built-in audience, as it’s based on the mega-popular novel from Dan Brown…PLUS, it stars Tom Hanks. This is the third Howard/Hanks/Brown collaboration, and the first two (“The Da Vinci Code” in 2006, and “Angels & Demons” in 2009) made a fortune. “Inferno”, on the other hand, opened in 2nd place at the North America box office (behind “Boo! A Madea Halloween”) this past weekend, with a tepid 15 million dollar gross. This continues the Howard trend of 2015’s bomb “In the Heart of the Sea”, 2013’s lukewarm “Rush”, and 2011’s mostly ignored, “The Dilemma”. Frankly, that’s a quartet of crap (in fairness, “Rush” apparently managed to squeeze out a profit overseas). Where did Richie Cunningham go awry?
The truth is…he’s never been all that talented. At least as a director. He’s been coasting on good will for years. I stopped buying the nonsense ages ago. Catch up! “Grand Theft Auto” was his unheralded debut in 1977 (from the Roger Corman factory), and then there was a 5-year hiatus. After that, starting in 1982, 3 hits in three years, with “Night Shift”, “Splash”, and “Cocoon”. Now, all three had their detractors then–but have YOU looked at them lately? Talk about creaky. Then “Gung Ho” in 1986, and “Willow” in 1988 were bombs, before a decent bounce back in 1989 with “Parenthood”. 1991’s “Backdraft” performed okay, as did 1992’s “Far and Away”, but “The Paper” in 1994 was a hit. Okay, 1995’s “Apollo 13” and 1996’s “Ransom” were absolute smashes, the former probably qualifying as my favorite Howard film. But 1999’s “EDtv” and 2003’s “The Missing” were critical and financial duds, and many were catching on as to just how broad and overbearing Ron Howard films could be. However, sandwiched in between were two of his biggest successes! 2000’s “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was a holiday smash…even though it’s practically unwatchable. And 2001 saw the release of “A Beautiful Mind”, which grabbed the Academy Award for Best Picture, while Howard took the Best Director prize…in his first nominated try. I repeat, not “The Lord of the Rings”, not “Mulholland Dr.”, not “Gosford Park”, not “Black Hawk Down”. The astonishingly mediocre, “A Beautiful Mind” won Best Picture. It’s criminal. And Howard started fibbing, with a complete whitewash of his “based-on-truth” main character. It would continue.
2005’s “Cinderella Man” was well received, but it fabricated an evil personality for former Heavyweight Champion Max Baer, and discredited his legacy. Now, I was getting mad. Then, I kind of enjoyed Howard’s film adaptation of “Frost/Nixon” (his 2nd directing Oscar nomination) before finding out that Howard played fast-and-loose with the facts there too. So, now I’m viewing Howard as completely full-of-shit. That covers all of Howard’s 22 feature films, so I think you’ll recognize that his reputation is completely unearned. He’s so middlebrow and uninteresting. What did the Fonz used to say on “Happy Days”? “Humdrum”. He called Howard’s character “humdrum”. Ron Howard has attempted to bolster his reputation with a couple of documentaries the last couple of years (2014’s “Made in America” and 2016’s “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week”). He wasn’t raked over the coals by critics, so maybe there’s a future for him there? Anyway, his future is secure with me. And I don’t care what kind of guy he is. As a feature film director–he just plain stinks.