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September 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

50/50 are the odds of surviving a rare form of cancer that the main character in the movie with those odds in the title is diagnosed with. It’s loosely based on screenwriter Will Reiser’s personal experiences. Given its premise the odds of its being praised by critics were probably a lot lower than those in the title. But, according to nearly all of them, 50/50 is a winner. Moviegoers will probably turn to Roger Ebert’s review in the Chicago Sun-Times to get his assessment of the movie first. After all, he’s a film critic who knows a thing or two about cancer, as well as a thing or two about comedy. “Some of the comedy aspects may seem unlikely,” he writes, but “if a movie like this were as relentlessly realistic as a masterpiece like Mike Nichols’ Wit, it would probably not be commercial and end up, as Wit did, on HBO. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Ebert concludes: “50/50 isn’t completely true to life, but the more you know about cancer, the less you want it to be. … It creates a comforting myth. That’s one of the things movies are good for.” Manohla Dargis in the New York Times also mentions that much of the movie deals with the main character’s entry “into the land of the sick, a place that the filmmakers try to portray with real, difficult feeling while also making it as cozy and finally unthreatening as possible.” “Still, it’s hard to imagine moviegoers seeking out a comedy about cancer, positive critical reviews or no. Lou Lumenick in the New York Post certainly seems to sense such public reluctance. “I laughed a lot at 50/50, which has a dark sense of humor that appealed to me,” he writes. “If you’re offended at Patrick Swayze jokes in this context, you might not agree.” The critics give much of the credit for the movie’s success to the performances of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, who plays his best friend. Levitt, writes Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “is touching, funny, and fierce — an unusual combination of moods, but deeply affecting.” Rogen, who actually is writer Will Reiser’s friend and stood by him during his cancer scare, also pulls off one of his best performances, the critics say. “Maybe because he’s playing a version of himself in Reiser’s story, he’s more appealing than ever,” Joe Neumaier remarks in the New York Daily News. A small number of critics were left unmoved by it all — and Rex Reed excoriates the movie in the New York Observer. “Artificial, irresponsible, filthy and forgettable, it knocks itself cross-eyed trying to make you roar with laughter at chemotherapy,” Reed thunders.