The big idea
One of the drama standards says that students will take some time "processing, analyzing, and responding to sensory information through the language and skills unique to theater." Since movies are a kind of drama that nearly everyone gets to see at some point, writing a movie review seems like a good way to get the job done.
How to do it
Here are the parts I want you to include in your review:
The first paragraph is where you’re going to write something that will catch my attention and make me want to read your review. What will that be? Who knows? It will be different for every movie. I can’t do all the work for you.
A brief description of the plot
Brief. BRIEF! Just tell enough to let us know if this movie is even in the same area code as something that the reader would want to see, and avoid spoilers!
Your plot description should take the basic form of “[Title of movie] is a story about [characters] who want [goal], but they can’t do it because [obstacle], so [some course of action].”
For example: “Jurassic Park is about a group of people who want to take a practice run through a new amusement park full of actual dinosaurs, but they can’t do it because the dinosaurs break loose, so they spend the rest of the movie trying to escape from the island without being eaten.”
This is where you tell me a couple of things:
- The standard movie-review information, like the year that it was made, the names of the director and stars (and where I may have seen their work before).
- Any interesting background tidbits that may catch the reader’s interest. (What genre is it? Is the movie a remake? A reboot? A sequel? Does it come from some source material we may have heard of, like a book, a TV show or a graphic novel? Are there any well-known stories about the production that you might remind us about? Has this movie been eagerly awaited?)
Don’t answer all these questions; just mention one or two things that might give us more information to help us decide whether we want to see the movie.
Make your points
This is the focus of the review. This is where you’re going to analyze the movie bit by bit and make the points that will let the reader decide whether or not to watch it on his or her own.
There are really three levels of things that you might write about:
- The story, the directing and the acting are almost always discussed.
- If it’s a genre movie, you’ll be sure to mention certain topics. For example, if it’s a horror movie or an action movie, you’ll discuss whether or not those parts were done successfully. If it’s animated, you’ll write about the animation.
- Finally, there are things that will be mentioned only if they especially helped or hurt the movie. These things might include the camera work, the costumes, the special effects or the music.
Remember: you generally only mention things if they’re going to help to make your final point about whether it’s a good or bad movie.
Also: be aware of your audience. A twelve-year-old reader wants to know different things than a fifty-year-old reader. (I’m fifty, by the way, and I’m going to be grading your movie reviews.)
This is where you make your recommendation: should the reader go to see the movie or not? Remember: you’re saying something along the lines of, “Because of [briefly restate your main points], this movie is or is not worth spending your time and money on.” Don’t just say that a movie was good or bad; explain that it was good or bad because of the things that you wrote about in your review.
Never forget: there are some movies that are so horrible that you have to see them!