'Hogs' proves that box office unaffected by reviews

The critically eviscerated “Wild Hogs” brought home the bacon for Disney over the weekend, and, somewhat surprisingly, marked John Travolta’s biggest ever opening in a three-decade-old career.

But “Hogs” is just the latest pic this year to be excoriated by film critics and heralded by auds. “Norbit” and “Ghost Rider” have also been resounding hits. Well-reviewed “Zodiac,” meantime, was helmer David Fincher’s second-lowest opening ever, following his controversial cult film “Fight Club” in 1999.

In 2007, the divide between critics and the moviegoing habits of mainstream American auds seem further apart than ever.

According to RottenTomatoes.com, the Web site that compiles critics picks, a paltry 7% of the nation’s top reviewers dug “Hogs.”

The Los Angeles Times called the midlife crisis motorcycle pic “an endless cyclorama of rehashed jokes and whiny complaint,” while the New York Post said it’s “a comedy that … illustrates exactly how nothing can happen on the road to nowhere.”

Only 10% of top critics, meantime, praised “Norbit,” and “Ghost Rider” was heralded by 30%, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

While the critics know their own tastes, they can’t seem to predict what will work well with auds. And neither can the highly paid tracking services, which have mostly underestimated perfs of the top-grossing pics so far this year.

Hollywood studios certainly don’t mind the trend.

In a recent Daily Variety interview about the success of “Night at the Museum,” yet another smash that was dissed by critics, Fox honcho Tom Rothman derisively said that the pic was not embraced by “highfalutin snooty snoot critics.”

“Critics are out of touch with their readership,” crowed one Disney exec after “Hogs” hit over the weekend.

“Light, fun and entertaining — that’s the niche that has worked,” said another Hollywood insider close to the “Zodiac” camp after the serial killer yarn had a harder time corralling auds. “It’s escapist fare that’s hitting right now.”

The trend is a continuation from last year, when many of the serious fall and winter pics, such as Warner Bros.’ “Blood Diamond,” didn’t click.

Then again, not everything that critics hate is working. Jim Carrey vehicle “The Number 23″ was mostly panned, and auds seem to agree.

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