There has recently been some discussion here and at Criticwatch about the oddball nature of the "Rent it" rating on At the Movies. Ben Lyons even dissed Four Christmases last week by saying, "Skip it, but I guess maybe if you are on an airplane you can watch it to stay awake."
I have since found this little commercial from a few months ago introducing us to the two Bens.
Jump ahead to 1:35.
Explaining their new rating system (although by that point it had been around for a month or two), Lyons says:
"Renting a movie doesn't mean it's average at all. It means watching it in the confines of your home, watching it on an iPod, or a phone, or on a plane, or where ever else people consume movies nowadays."
So is "Rent it" good or bad? In reality, it is just something people say casually about a movie. "It looks ok, but I am not going to make an effort to see it. I'll put it in my Netflix queue and watch it at home and not really worry if the phone rings or whatever." Which is fine, but it is not exactly a sensible rating for a critic.
Lyons gives away the problem without any sense of what a disservice he is doing--watching a movie on an iPod or a phone (on a tiny screen with no audience) or on an airplane (edited and constantly interrupted!) are NOT great ways to see a movie. Granted, I have watched movies on my iPod and on a plane, and enjoyed them, but I certainly would NOT recommend it.
Movies are meant to be enjoyed in a theater, with a big screen and an audience. Recommending "Rent it" for a movie is like recommending "Read it" for a play--yes, it is much cheaper and you can still enjoy it, but that is not what the medium was made for.