'Banal and flavorless porridge' – Sony will be wincing at reviews of its lavish new drama

Where The Crawdads Sing
(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Where The Crawdads Sing, the lavish new movie from Sony Pictures, has been roundly trounced by critics. 

The movie is an adaptation of Delia Owens' bestselling novel and stars Daisy Edgar-Jones, best known for her roles in Normal People and Hulu horror Fresh. 

Set across two timelines, the narrative first follows the life and adventures of a young girl named Kya as she grows up isolated in the marsh of North Carolina from 1952 to 1969. The second timeline follows a murder investigation of Chase Andrews, a local celebrity of Barkley Cove, a fictional coastal town of North Carolina. Andrews has been having a relationship with Kya, who is now 19. 

Jones plays Kya, with The Kings' Man star Harris Dickinson playing Andrews. Olivia Newman, director of much-acclaimed sporting drama First Match, is in charge, working from a script from Lucy Alibar, who'd won plaudits for her script for Beasts Of The Southern Wild. Reese Witherspoon is among the movie's producers. 

Where The Crawdads Sing arrives in US movie theaters today (July 15) with the UK release date coming a week later on July 22. The movie is a priority for Sony Pictures and has been backed by a large marketing campaign. However, the money Sony has thrown at its latest film had no sway on critics, who have given the movie an absolute blitzing. 

How bad are we talking?

Lots of one-and-a-half and two star reviews, plus a 34% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with many critics going to town on the movie. 

Deadline's Todd McCarthy went particularly hard, calling the movie a "...ripe-for-adaptation melodrama has been flattened, de-juiced and otherwise withered into a massively banal and flavorless porridge", while The Daily Telegraph's Robbie Colin put the boot in even harder, calling Where The Crawdads Sing "a finger-lickin’ family bucket of southern-fried twaddle" and wrote of Jones and Dickinson's performances that neither of them "...overcome the cloying sentimentality of the material, nor dispel the general aura of simpering phoniness."

Slant's Derek Smith called the movie an "...exceedingly vapid and derivative affair", while Globe and Mail's Barry Heartz pronounced it "...neither heartbreaking nor thrilling, often feeling like a blown-up version of a Hallmark flick-of-the-week". The New York Times' A.O. Scott was particularly scathing, writing that the movie's "...temperature is awfully mild, as if a Tennessee Williams play had been sent to Nicholas Sparks for a rewrite." Ouch. 

watch Normal People online stream

Daisy Edgar-Jones won rave reviews for her role in Normal People. In this movie, not so much... (Image credit: Hulu/BBC)

Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press was equally damning, writing that "All the buzz and talent around a tale that’s sold more than 12 million copies can’t thoroughly mask a sometimes corny, often clunky script, even if most of the lines are delivered by Daisy Edgar-Jones", while The Hollywood Reporter's Lovia Gyarkye called the movie "...the kind of tedious moral fantasy that fuels America’s misguided idealism". Not ideal for a marketing campaign, is it?

There were good reviews in amongst the pile of bad ones, though. Emily Zemler of Observer.com called the movie "a strong, satisfying adaptation", although added that "...certainly there will be viewers who find it trite or melodramatic", and Variety's Owen Gleiberman wrote that Where The Crawdads Sing is "...a movie about fighting back against male intransigence that has the courage of its outsider spirit."

Analysis: Will these reviews silence the crawdads?

They certainly aren't ideal as Sony tries to convince busy, overheated potential moviegoers to avoid the sunshine and take to the theater. 

Had the movie gone straight to a streaming service, a big splashy campaign and a star on the rise in Daisy Edgar-Jones might well have been enough for lots of people to give it a chance. But dramas of this kind do tend to live or die by the hype surrounding them. 

Maybe enough of the 12 million people who've bought Delia Owens' book will be sufficiently curious to go and see it? Probably not, but it should enjoy another life when it comes to Netflix later this year.

Where the Crawdads Sing isn't the only lavish drama to get a critical mauling. Find out exactly what critics said about Netflix's take on Jane Austen's Persuasion in our reviews round-up.

Tom Goodwyn
Freelance Entertainment Writer

Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…