Erin Brockovich (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

It really wasn't too hard to come up with the Robbins Recipe for this one, because this is exactly the same movie as A Civil Action, so it didn't really need to get cross-bred with anything else.

Here's how it worked.

They were all sitting around watching A Civil Action one day, and someone said, "y'know this is a pretty good flick, pretty inspirational, but it's missing something".

And the one producer said, "yeah, where's the T&A?"

And the other producer said, "and what's the deal with Travolta? I mean his comeback is officially over. He's a fat ugly dude and he's staler than cheese-puffs after you've opened the bag and left them on the counter for a week."


none. Mini-skirts and cleavage.
And the first producer said, "OK, hear me out. We remake this same movie without the fat ugly dude. We replace him with a babe with big tits. I mean a real babe. Like Jennifer Connelly".

And the response was, "Nah, not Connelly. She's a babe, but she's got no box office appeal. We want to sell tickets. We need Julia Roberts."

"OK, point taken, but we need tits, and Julia doesn't have any"

"Not yet. But, shit, my wife doesn't have any tits, and she wears this stuff that makes her look like fucking Chesty Morgan. (Presses intercom) Crystal, get me Victoria's Secret on the phone"

A hit is born. They had everything they needed to make a perfect commercial movie.

  • They had heart-warming small-town-folk, good, decent people like Andy of Mayberry up against an evil corporate polluter with "&" in their name.
  • They had the exact same speech that Kathleen Quinlan made in A Civil Action about how the victims don't want to get rich, but just want their kids to grow up without fear and diseases.
  • They had the dyin' kids of the honest hard-workin' down-home folk, all of whom had cancer and other major diseases. The evil corporate giant killed everything with its killin', lyin' ways. Everything. They killed kids, family pets, wildlife, even Alicia Silverstone's career.
  • They had acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh.
  • They had Julia Roberts playing the one who stands alone against the evil corporate malefactors.
  • And they had tits. And miniskirts

To be fair, although I rarely worry about fairness, Julia did a remarkable job of recreating the abrasive style and personality of the real Erin Brockovich, who is interviewed in the DVD extra features, and is so irritating and cocky that if you had the money, you'd pay her $300 million just to shut up. I mean this girl makes Ross Perot seem charming. Julia took a real risk in playing an unpleasant, rude woman who ignored her family in order to do her job superbly in a good cause. That could have backfired big-time, but did not, because Julia and the script managed to strike the correct note of righteousness, in which the end justified the means.

Along the way, however, Brockovich constantly whines about people not respecting her when she shows no respect for or even politeness toward anyone else. In fact, almost all of her complaints are about her own personal role, and not about the case itself. She wants to be able to dress like a street hooker, and mistreat her co-workers, and completely have her own way at all times about everything.

Erin Brockovich was nominated by the academy for the Best Picture Oscar, although, as I write this, it's nowhere near the top five year 2000 films, as rated by IMDB members. Nominees are highlighted on the table below. Obviously, Brockovich and Chocolat would not be the people's choices for Oscar nominations. By the way, Chocolat's Lasse Hallstrom wasn't nominated for Best Director. The fifth directorial nod went to Billy Elliott instead.

I think I'd be quite happy if the top five listed here were the five Oscar nominees. You could argue that Gladiator is out of its league, but there's no candidate in the remaining choices which really inspires my passion.

  Score Year 2000 Rank All-Time Rank
Crouching Tiger 8.6 1 9
Traffic 8.3 2 41
Almost Famous 8.2 3 54
Gladiator 8.0 4 87
Requiem for a Dream 8.0 5 95
Dancer in the Dark 7.8 6 143
Snatch 7.8 7 152
Billy Elliott 7.8 8 158
O, Brother ... 7.7 9 170
Chicken Run 7.7 10 181
High Fidelity 7.7 11 206
You Can Count on Me 7.6 12 208
Urbania   13  
Best in Show   14  
Remember the Titans   15  
X-men   16  
Wonder Boys   17  
Chocolat   18  
Erin Brockovich   19  

DVD info from Amazon.

  • anamorphic widescreen 1.85

  • "the making of"

  • interview with the real Erin Brockovich

  • deleted scenes with commentary

As for genius director Steven Soderbergh, the style and invention of his usual work is held almost completely in check in Brockovich, and he just did a play-for-pay turn by telling a factual story in a factual, chronological way. He can thank his lucky stars it was a good story with an inspiring finish, because he really didn't do much except straightforward narration. He handled it with consummate skill - and not the slightest hint of inspiration. I'm not even sure that he actually showed up on the set.

Don't get me wrong. Erin Brockovich is a good movie. It just isn't a great one.

So once again we have one of those totally honest movies made by a big corporation about how big corporations are bad. Let's hope they get what their karma dictates, and that the real Erin Brockovich makes her next cause a class-action suit against Sony, because I want to see what kind of movie them sumbitches make about that one.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, Apollo 84

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 85% positive overall, 81% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.6, Apollo users 72/100. These scores are consistent with the critical consensus.
  • With their dollars ... a monster hit. A $51 milion budget generated $125 million in US domestic gross and $131 million overseas. The 13th highest grossing film in the world in 2000.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. Slick, well made, workmanlike, but uninspired.

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