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The Best And Worst Viewer-Written Reviews Of ‘Paterno’

HBO released “Paterno,” the widely-debated biopic chronicling the final week of Joe Paterno’s 61-year tenure as Penn State’s head football coach, Saturday night.

While critics released their reviews of the 105-minute movie prior to its premiere, the first broadcast of the movie gave viewers a chance to take in the film and submit their own reviews on websites like IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.

At the time of publication, users had submitted 17 reviews of “Paterno” on IMDb, while nine were submitted on Rotten Tomatoes. The average score of IMDb’s user reviews sits at 5.31 out of ten, while Rotten Tomatoes’ reviews add up to a 2.4 out of five.

Emotions run high in these reviews, and boy are they varied. One review calls Joe Paterno an “old fart,” while another dismisses the movie as “more ‘Joe Knew’ propaganda.” Regardless, here are some of the best and worst user reviews of “Paterno.”

Negative Feedback

“Paterno” received plenty of negative feedback from viewers on both platforms. Seven IMDb reviews of “Paterno” give the movie a score of less than five, while six reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie two-and-a-half stars or less.

IMDb user footballstuff08 dismisses the movie as “more ‘Joe Knew’ propaganda,” titling his review “Utter Garbage” and claiming the film slanders Joe Paterno’s name. Nearly 300 Penn State lettermen agree with his assessment, as they released a letter Monday saying that the film would be considered libelous if Paterno was still alive.

Another one-out-of-ten review calls the movie “bad and formulaic,” saying it’s a “reporters are saints, rich guys are bad and cover up for child molesters/abusers, middle America is dumb and needs said reporters to tell them who the good and bad guys are” movie.

“This movie is a rare dog for HBO,” IMDb user thebricks said. “Just all out of the place, no charm to it, nothing new, no one is likable. It feels unfair to me that this movie defines Paterno’s entire career. 3/4’s of it should have been about his career, leave the last 1/4 to the Sandusky case just to illustrate how destructive it was to his legacy. This movie is just a chance for Pacino to mug for the camera for 2 hours. It’s terrible. Pass.”

Rotten Tomatoes user Martyn I gave “Paterno” a 0.5 out of five rating, the lowest possible score on the site. She brings up that Frank Fina — the former Chief Deputy Attorney General of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office — said that Paterno did not actively cover up Sandusky’s misconduct in an interview with 60 Minutes.

Kirk Collingwood echoes this sentiment in his one-star review of the film. He calls the final scene of the film — when a victim calls Sara Ganim’s office and says that he was abused by Sandusky in 1976 — a “total fabrication.”

“If you want to see a fictional football movie with Al Pacino, I recommend Any Given Sunday,” he says.

IMDb user underscore1 was perhaps the most objective of all of the movie’s negative reviews. The user gave “Paterno” a score of three out of ten, criticizing its focus on two figures who are not at the center of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. They are also unsure why Sara Ganim’s pursuit of the story is even included in the movie, assuming she’s only included to give the movie a female protagonist.

“[The] acting was excellent, and I feel that that was Levinson’s whole purpose for the movie,” they said. “One last crack at some award for both he and Pacino, but I just didn’t feel like I got anywhere. Even the ending seemed like a ‘oh crap, we’re out of material, let’s throw something outrageous in at the end’ moment. Thank goodness this was just an HBO movie and I didn’t pay anything at the box office.”

Positive Feedback

On the other end of the spectrum, three IMDb users gave “Paterno” a perfect score, while only one Rotten Tomatoes user gave the movie a five-star rating. Rotten Tomatoes user Joshua Lopez praises Al Pacino’s performance as Joe Paterno and director Barry Levinson’s portrayal of the events. Lopez compares Pacino’s performance in this film to his performance as Michael Corleone in “The Godfather,” specifically pointing out how Pacino uses silence to show his emotions about the emergence of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

“Several scenes involve Paterno just sitting while his family debates,” the user said. “Pacino brilliantly captures the overwhelming dread and sadness that filled the final days of his life and how this particular dark moment that will forever change Paterno’s career and legacy.”

The user published the exact same review on both websites, publishing it on IMDb under the username cubanoguy. Lopez adds a small paragraph about negative reviewers on IMDb’s website, urging readers to disregard them because they “clearly have an agenda”.

Reviewers who gave the movie high ratings almost always dismissed the opinions of the Penn State fans who flooded the reviews page with low scores. IMDb user clacura refers to those negative reviewers as “loyalists” and “cult members” and seemingly wholeheartedly believes that Paterno purposefully covered up Sandusky’s abuse.


What did you think of HBO’s “Paterno” biopic? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

Mikey is a junior majoring in journalism and Onward State's Assistant Sports Editor. He grew up in Bedminster, NJ and is way too obnoxious about all the best things his home state has to offer. He likes to play golf, but he isn't very good at it because golf is hard. If you're dying to see more hockey/golf content on your timeline, you can follow Mikey on Twitter @mikey_mandarino. Send all hate mail/death threats to [email protected]

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