Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

April 10, 2007

A Must-See, Until the 'Inane Letdown'

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 Grindhouse, Blades of Glory, Black Book, and more.

Carl Bialik

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 metacritic.com, 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.

Graphic created by Paul Antonson
"The computer graphics may give you a temporary headache. But the 3D effects may point to what movies could look like decades hence. I'm not sure I'm happy about that."—Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune on Meet the Robinsons

Graphic created by Paul Antonson

Grindhouse (Dimension/Weinstein Co.)

Christy Lemire, Associated Press: "There's nothing else like it. A must-see!"
Actual line: " 'Grindhouse' is still a must-see. Just to say you survived it."
Not quoted: "Then comes Tarantino's contribution, 'Death Proof.' And it's so typically verbose of him, it nearly kills all the momentum that had built over the previous two hours. … it ends up feeling just plain boring—an unfortunately inane letdown after such a thrilling buildup."

Blades of Glory (Paramount)

Kevin Crust, Los Angeles Times: "Hysterical!"
Actual line: "The film's parody of figure skating is hysterical but loses its way outside the rink."
Not quoted: "Although the film makes comic fodder of these two extreme opposites on the chain of masculinity, there's not much to it beyond the obvious sight gags and innuendo. The filmmakers may be making some generic point about the warring masculine and feminine aspects within every male, but they were far more interested in the high-concept idea of two men flinging each other across the ice. … The off-ice shenanigans … are sluggish and lose much of the momentum generated by the skating."

Meet the Robinsons (Buena Vista)

Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune: "Exhilarating! A real technical breakthrough."
Not quoted: "The movie doesn't really get going until it hits the future—the first third is draggy—and the computer graphics may give you a temporary headache. But the 3D effects may point to what movies could look like decades hence. I'm not sure I'm happy about that. … there are moments in 'Robinsons' that seem mostly designed to show off the 3D."

John Anderson, Newsday: "A masterpiece."
Actual line: "Disney's new 3-D adventure comedy, and imagining little angels, and little devils, sitting on the shoulders of the filmmakers. One is whispering, 'Be creative!' The other is whispering, 'Be a hack!' Somehow, both messages got through. 'Robinsons' is hardly a movie aimed at little kids alone—nothing this big would be. But the movie doesn't really start becoming a masterpiece until about a third of the way through. Previous to that, it's a collection of cliches."

Black Book (Sony)

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "Provocative and potently erotic! There's not a dull second in it!"
Not quoted: "[Director Paul] Verhoeven bites off more than he can handily chew. He wouldn't be Verhoeven if he didn't."

The Last Mimzy (New Line)

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: "Hits the sweet spot with a satisfying cosmic bang. It's a cross between A Wrinkle in Time and a middle-school version of Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
Actual line: "The results, titled 'The Last Mimzy,' are too awkward for serious-minded adults and teenagers, and much too complicated for small children. For smart kids between the ages of 8 and 12, though, the movie hits the sweet spot with a satisfying cosmic bang. It's a cross between 'A Wrinkle in Time' and a middle-school version of 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind,' and while 'Mimzy' doesn't carry the 'Twilight Zone' chill of the original story, it still has the power to pry open young minds."
Not quoted: "Plot holes? 'The Last Mimzy' has them by the pound. It also includes a few egregious bits of product placement, one of which is used as a joke that doesn't quite come off. You can't really argue that this is a well-made movie …"

Jan Stuart, Newsday: "Welcomely wry humor … it speaks its heart in a language that kids totally get."
Actual line: " 'The Last Mimzy' goes about its business with a welcomely wry humor that undercuts the scenario's earnest New Age-y potential. If it isn't always crystal clear about what's on its mind, it speaks its heart in a language that kids totally get."
Not quoted: "charming if interpretively muddled …"

Firehouse Dog (Twentieth Century Fox)

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: "Heartfelt."
Actual line: "When 'Firehouse Dog' tries for satire, it doesn't get there. Eventually, though, the script wises up and settles down for a surprisingly heartfelt father/son relationship, handled with restraint by director Todd Holland."
Not quoted: "It begins unpromisingly. … The snotty-Hollywood-airs-meet-real-life joke went out 16 years ago, around the time of 'The Hard Way.' "

Teresa Budasi, Chicago Sun-Times: "A fun family film."
Not quoted: "When we first catch a glimpse of Hollywood star Rexxx, a pampered pooch with a ridiculous hairpiece, 'Firehouse Dog' seems doomed to the Dumb Dog Movie Hall of Fame alongside the likes of 'Good Boy' and 'Beethoven's 2nd.' … The plot points become predictable."

Janet Stokes, Film Advisory Board: "Wonderful."
For more on the Film Advisory Board's methods, see this Blurbs column.

Boy Culture (TLA Releasing)

New York Times: "A sleek and absorbing drama! A cerebral blend of insight, wit and raunchy self-awareness."
Actual line: "A slick and absorbing drama…"
For changing to "sleek" from the decidedly more-ambivalent "slick," this ad wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week award.

The Reaping (Warner Bros.)

Shawn Edwards, Fox-TV: "A terrific thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat."
Shawn, a long-time regular here at The Blurbs, is often kept on the edge of his seat. This ad stuck with the usual bad-movie lovers (including Edwards and US Weekly's Thelma Adams), which is just as well because almost none of the mainstream critics included in Metacritic's roundup had much nice to say about this Hilary Swank thriller.

Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.







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Article by Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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