Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

November 16, 2007

A Memoriam for 'Mr. Magorium'

In this week's edition of The Blurbs—the feature in which we take a close look at those critic blurbs that are a fixture of ads for movies—see breakdowns of blurbs for 'Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium,' 'Beowulf,' 'Fred Claus,' and more.

David Goldenberg

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, and find out what critics think of the racket here.

"The most magical movie of the year!"—noted blurb whore Shawn Edwards, on Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (20th Century Fox)
Metacritic Score: 48/100

Shawn Edwards, FOX-TV: "The most magical movie of the year!"
Shawn, Shawn, Shawn.

Vickie An, Time for Kids: "A marvelous, magical tale!"
"A Marvelous, Magical Shop Tale" is actually the title of an interview that An does with Magorium star Natalie Portman, in which An makes no judgments about the quality of the film itself.

Mark S. Allen, CBS/CW Stations: "The perfect holiday film! Enchanting beyond your wildest dreams."
Though Gelf couldn't find the review in which Allen says this, we did come across a video of him discussing a related blurb with star Jason Bateman:

Mark Allen: When I was interviewing you, I said, "Wow, you're really good in this. I never pegged you for a feel-good-movie-of-the-year type of guy." I swear to you, today in the New York Times it says, "Feel Good Movie of the Year—Mark S. Allen." Do you realize you've got narcs in your room?

Jason Bateman: New York Times gave us a good review today? Is that right?

MA: Courtesy of different reporters around America. Entertainment Tonight, Entertainment Weekly gave you a good review. I gave you a good review. There were a few people that liked this movie.

JB: Was I singled out in any of the reviews?

MA: I can't specifically answer to that.

JB: Well then I don't care about them.

Love in the Time of Cholera (New Line Cinema)
Metacritic Score: 44/100

Dean Richards, WGN-TV: "One of the greatest love stories ever told. Amazing…gorgeous…touching."
In the only review he did that we could find, Richards isn't quite as effusive, calling the film, "An above average, B plus." If he did use the phrase "one of the greatest love stories ever told," perhaps it was because he was borrowing the exact language that the film uses to describe itself.

Fred Claus (Warner Bros.)
Metacritic Score: 42/100

Shawn Edwards, WDAF/FOX-TV: "One of the funniest comedies of the year."
Shawn, Shawn, Shawn.

Meghan Keane, The New York Sun: "Vaughn unexpectedly makes for a lovable children's hero"
Actual line: "Like Bill Murray in 'Scrooged,' Mr. Vaughn unexpectedly makes for a lovable children's hero, and for a holiday children's film, he escapes with relatively few indignities. But even his dry nonchalance and wit cannot overcome charmless dance scenes and bungled attempts at elfin cuteness."
Not quoted: "Ultimately, the film struggles to float its sweet message, that there are no naughty kids, but 'Fred Claus' does manage to grasp the cinematic magic of Christmas once it gets past the rigors of plot machinations."

Jeffrey Lyon's NBC's Reel Talk: "Sure to be a holiday classic."
Though we couldn't find Lyon's saying this anywhere, he does seem to like the movie, telling cohost Alison Bailes, "This is a very funny movie and I think Vince Vaughn is the best ad libber since Robin Williams." Bales disagrees. "They're trying to appeal to too many audiences," she says. "I think it could have been much funnier if they'd gone for an adult audience only."

Southland Tales (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Metacritic Score: 43/100

Carina Chocano, Los Angeles Times: "'Southland Tales' is a political farce, a noir doomsday chiller, a paranoid fantasy, a 'Saturday Night Live' sketch on acid."
Actual line: "From one moment to the next, 'Southland Tales' is a political farce, a noir doomsday chiller, a paranoid fantasy, a 'Saturday Night Live' sketch on acid, a musical and an Alex Cox punk rock reverie."
Not quoted: "You get the sense that Kelly is too angry to really find any of it funny. It's easy to empathize with his position, not so easy to remain engrossed in a film that's occasionally inspired but ultimately manic and scattered."
For transforming a critique of the film's schizophrenia into a seeming compliment, this ad wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week Award.

J. Hoberman, The Village Voice: "A gloriously sprawling spectacle!"
Not quoted: "Kelly's movie may not be entirely coherent, but that's because there's so much it wants to say."

Redacted (Magnolia Pictures)
Metacritic Score: 52/100

Stephanie Zacharek, Salon: "Depalma's anger and frustration with the media course through 'Redacted' like an electrical current."
Not quoted: "Brian De Palma's 'Redacted' doesn't quite work as a movie. But it works as something, and the half-day that has passed since I saw it isn't nearly enough for me to process it fully."

David Ansen, Newsweek: "Angry. Powerful. Incendiary."
Actual line: "This angry, powerful but problematic movie thus appropriates the documentary to comment on the way the war is filtered through various media, and to borrow some of its fly-on-the-wall visceral impact. (But if you're trying to make us believe we're watching "reality" by using a faux documentary style, you need actors who never look like they are acting, and this is where 'Redacted' stumbles.)"

Lions for Lambs (MGM)
Metacritic Score: 47/100

Manohla Dargis, The New York Times: "Mr. Cruise pours on his characteristic intensity and lights up the board with alternating flashes of charm, sincerity, gravity, indignation and outrage."
Not quoted: "The problem isn’t whether this assertion [that you should support the troops even if you don’t support the wars] is true; the problem is the film reflexively embraces it, much as it does every single other cliché, without inquiry, challenge or a single ounce of real risk. It tells us everything most of us know already, including the fact that politicians lie, journalists fail and youth flounders. Mostly it tells us that Mr. Redford feels really bad about the state of things. Welcome to the club."

Lars and the Real Girl (MGM)
Metacritic Score: 69/100

David Edelstein, New York Magazine: "Howlingly funny!"
Actual line: "The deadpan comedy Lars and the Real Girl—the tale of an emotionally backward man (Ryan Gosling) and the sex doll he believes to be alive—is often howlingly funny, and the actors are a treat. But the underlying message is so suspect that it’s hard to suspend disbelief."

What Would Jesus Buy? (Palisades Pictures)
Metacritic Score: 52/100

Julia Wallace, The Village Voice: "Tremendously entertaining."
Not quoted: "Unfortunately, WWJB never pushes past the surface of this shtick to explore the deeper forces behind our impulse to buy."

Variety: "Seriously hilarious!"
Actual line: "Coming off as equal parts revivalist preacher and guerrilla activist, the elaborately coiffured Rev. Billy is seriously hilarious as he and his compatriots proselytize against overspending in chain stores and megamalls during the Christmas shopping rush."
Not quoted: "Too often, however, 'What Would Jesus Buy?' drifts into discursive segments that, however well-intentioned, play like distracting detours."

P2 (Summit Entertainment)
Metacritic Score: 37/100

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: "Slasher 'P2' finds a new level of horror."
Not quoted: "This is, in case you haven't noticed, the best autumn for movies in years. There are a dozen, maybe two dozen, movies in current release that I would recommend over 'P2.' Maybe four dozen."

Jeffrey Epstein, US Weekly: "Girl-Power revenge story not often seen on screen."
Actual line: "While the thriller’s too long, it presents a girl-power revenge story not often seen on screen."

Beowulf (Paramount Pictures)
Metacritic Score: 60/100

Ben Lyons, E!: " 'Beowulf' in 3D is a night at the movies you will never forget!"

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "Outrageously entertaining! Put on those 3D glasses and ride, baby, ride. Zimeckis springs so many 3D surprises you'll think 'Beowulf' is your own private fun house. You'll be jumping out of your skin and begging for more."
Perhaps all of the previews were in 3D, but the fact that they used these lines for blurbs is odd considering that the large majority of people who watch this movie won't be doing so in a 3D theater.

David Goldenberg

David Goldenberg is the co-founder and editor of Gelf, and the host of Geeking Out, Gelf's monthly science speaking series.

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Article by David Goldenberg

David Goldenberg is the co-founder and editor of Gelf, and the host of Geeking Out, Gelf's monthly science speaking series.

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