The Blurbs

August 26, 2006

"A Big, Semi-Gory, Campy, Mother [Bleeping] Gas"

Our roundup of misleading review blurbs in ads for movies takes on Snakes on a Plane, Factotum, Idlewild, and more.

David Goldenberg

Blurb Racket
Paul Antonson
The critic blurb is a staple of arts advertising. Yet if you look behind some blurbs, you'll find quotes out of context, quote whores, and other questionable ad practices. Blurb Racket exposes the truth behind critics blurbs in movie ads from the New York Times. Movie titles link to, which compiles movie reviews in a far-more honest way than do movie ads. See the inaugural Blurb Racket column for background and useful links.

Idlewild (Universal Pictures/HBO Films)

Shawn Edwards, Fox TV: "A magical experience unlike anything you have ever seen. Wildly entertaining! It's a fresh, hip and imaginative extravaganza that will dazzle and thrill audiences from beginning to end. OutKast are musical and visual geniuses that entertain with their creative brilliance and sheer showmanship. 'Idlewild' is the rebirth of cool OutKast style!"
Shawn. Shawn. Shawn. Generally panned, Idlewild also uses Edwards's ridiculously effusive review in its television ads.

How to Eat Fried Worms (New Line Cinema)

David Germain, The Associated Press: "This is a family film that has it all."
Actual line: "This is a family film that has it all, except, say, a gazillion-dollar marketing budget that might actually get people to come see it."
Funny, they were still able to afford a full-page ad in the Times.

Pulse (Dimension Films/Weinstein Co.)

Christy Lemire, Associated Press: "...incredibly intense..."
Not quoted:"It's intended as an indictment of our overdependence on communications devices, but the premise is out-of-this-world unbelievable."
Last week, Gelf poked fun at Pulse for, among other things, featuring an Earl Dittman blurb.

Factotum (IFC Films)

David Fear, Time Out New York: "Dry-vermouth wit...A fine match for Bukowski's prose!"
Actual line: "Deadpan doesn’t quite describe the tone; from the way Norwegian director Bent Hamer (Kitchen Stories) and Dillon savor each display of the author’s dry-vermouth wit, you’d think the jokes were being delivered in a hearse. Like its hero, the film has no forward momentum and just stumbles from one sad-sack vignette to the next, lost in its own hungover haze. But the po-faced absurdism is a fine match for Bukowski’s prose, distilling the whimsy without losing the author’s gutter poetry."

Manohla Dargis, The New York Times: "Boozy, beautiful...Mr. Dillon's phrasing carries the weight of feeling!"
Actual line: "For years the boozy, beautiful world of Charles Bukowski has proved catnip to European filmmakers and a few American actors happy to go along for the rough ride... There are intimations of soul amid this film’s bloody grins and barstool gargoyles, but what it lacks is an appreciation for Bukowski’s tenderness, for those sighs of feeling that rise up when life is this hard, but the soul enduring it has not hardened in turn. Mr. Dillon’s phrasing carries the weight of such feeling, as does the hypnotically slowed gestures that give him the aspect of a man sitting at the bottom of a pool and thinking about drowning."
Both blurbs take raves for Bukowski's writing and turn them into raves for the movie. For the willful (and unnecessary, as most reviewers liked the film) manipulation of quotes, the entire ad wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week award.
Advertising manipulation for this film extends to its original Wikipedia page (now in Google cache), which was obviously written by someone with a rooting interest. It includes several blurbs; Gelf wasn't able to verify all of them. The current, neutral Wikipedia page for the movie says, "The Wikipedia page for the film, in keeping with an increased number of viral marketing incursions, was edited together in a manner that suggested a subjective take on the film, including favorable snippets from reviews usually reserved for movie posters and a traditional press kit blurb for Charles Bukowski."

Accepted (Universal Pictures)

Paul Fischer, Dark Horizons: "One of the surprise hits of the summer, both raucously funny, yet full of heart and soul. Here is a wonderfully wise, deliciously subversive and smart comedy for anyone craving acceptance. A total triumph and one of the best films of the summer."
Actual line: "Accepted is one of the surprise hits of the summer, both raucously funny, yet full of heart and soul. Here is a wonderfully wise, deliciously subversive and smart comedy for anyone craving acceptance."
As you can see, the blurb guys quote Fischer completely accurately. What they didn't include was a note from Dark Horizon's editor Garth Franklin, who preludes this review with: "My regular junket guy Paul Fischer occasionally will do a review for a film and more often than not I entirely disagree with him—the guy is way too positive about much of the shit that comes out." Ouch.

Material Girls (MGM)

Ed Carpenter, The Dove Foundation: "The perfect comedy for moms and daughters!"
This Duff-sister vehicle has the worst score of any current film on Metacritic (and ranks right behind Gigli on the all-time list), which may explain why its lone blurb comes from a reviewer for a nonprofit whose "standards and criteria are based on Judeo/Christian values, free from the pressure of commercial interests." At the end of the Dove review, concerned viewers are cautioned that "there is a gay character in the film"; under nudity, "cleavage" is listed; and bad words in the film include "H-3; S-1; P-1; OMG/G-9; Good Lord-1; D-1; S*ck-1; Scr*w-1; We're Scr*wed-1; Geez-1."

Trust the Man (Fox Searchlight)

New York Post: "Trust us—it's just right for a date."
Not quoted: "By the diminished standards of mid-August, Trust the Man is a better than adequate date movie."

Snakes on a Plane (New Line Cinema)

Jen Chaney, Washington Post: "A totally great experience...pure escapist fun."
Not quoted: "Let's get one thing straight: Snakes on a Plane is a not a great movie. The acting is consistently one-dimensional. The premise, as the title suggests, is beyond ludicrous. And the musical score is so unsophisticated that it makes the Axel F theme from Bevery (sic) Hills Cop sound remarkably fresh and innovative...If I had happened upon it while flipping through cable channels at home, I might have turned it off after the first hour. But in a crowded theater, the whole thing is a big, semi-gory, campy, mother [bleeping] gas."
What's that? You want more of Gelf's take on this mothafuckin' movie? Read this mothafuckin' article.

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Article by David Goldenberg

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