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April 1, 2005

Blurb Racket 4/1/05

Our weekly roundup of misleading review blurbs in movie ads takes on a sequel, a spinoff to a sequel, a "new-school" reviewer, and more.

Carl Bialik

The arts section of each Friday's New York Times has pages of movie ads that feature positive blurbs from critics. Leafing through the ad pages in today's paper, I found quotes out of context, lousy reviewers, and faint praise. See the inaugural Blurb Racket column for background and useful links.

Beauty Shop

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: "An excellent ensemble ... the warm, funny, empowering 'Beauty Shop' is a cut above."

Actual line: "With an excellent ensemble headed by Queen Latifah, the warm, funny, empowering (and estrogen-drenched) 'Beauty Shop' is a cut above what you'd expect from the spinoff of a sequel."

Not quoted: "trades heavily in stereotypes"; "there is a plot of sorts"

What's odd about this out-of-context quote is that there are plenty of more unambiguously favorable reviews, as collected at

Fever Pitch

Earl Dittman, Wireless Magazines: "Irresistible! The Perfect Date Movie."

As Gelf has noted before, Dittman is a dubious source for movie advice. In fairness to the film, it hasn't gotten reviewed much at all yet; the film opens nationwide April 8, but ran a full-page ad in the Times for its limited engagement. Which raises the question: Why not open the Boston Red Sox film everywhere in time for Opening Day?

Guess Who

Earl Dittman, Wireless Magazines: "Absolute Comic Perfection! An extraordinarily funny, laugh-a-minute, side-splitting comedy."

Shawn Edwards, FOX-TV: "Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher are flat-out hilarious!"

Dittman and Edwards back a formidable one-two punch of suspect reviewing. Dittman finds perfection everywhere he looks. As for Edwards, the Kansas City TV man, Gelf noted last week his tendency toward hype. Edwards claims that his ebullience has helped his career: "The quotes you read of mine, alongside Roger Ebert and all the top-notch critics, has totally helped my career as a film critic and my credibility," he told the Kansas City Star in February 2004.

Edwards responded to critics of his gushing style this February, also in the KC Star: "Here's my deal. My job as a critic is to appreciate the whole spectrum of cinema. As a critic I'm allowed my opinion. I don't understand these guys. I think as a younger guy I have a wider appreciation for all types of film. I mean, everything is not going to be a 'Citizen Kane.' But I've been quoted on two of the five movies nominated for best picture, too. So my taste can't be all that bad. I liked 'White Chicks,' and that film did $75 million. I'm not ashamed. I also like 'Million Dollar Baby' and 'Ray.' But I don't like everything. I did not like 'Sideways.' " Edwards paints himself as in touch with the movie-going youth, and Christopher Hearne Jr., a Star columnist, swallows that line whole. Here's Hearne's slanted take on the criticism: "Some old-school movie critics still find fault with new-school critics."

At the new school, apparently, everyone gets an A. When asked by the KC Star if it was hard to review movies, in January 2004, Edwards replied, "It's extremely hard because there's something good about every movie." Edwards even forgot he panned 'Sideways.' He told Hearne: "We did a 10 worst (movies) last year and I didn't not like 'Sideways,' I gave it a three (out of five)."

Also last month, Edwards and the Kansas City Film Critics Circle parted ways. Edwards blames the group's snobbishness and their failure to understand that "movies and quotes go together like 7-Elevens and Slurpees." The critics had a different take: Edwards, they said, was a deadbeat who failed to pay his $10 dues.

Finally, Gelf leaves you with this priceless cartoon about Edwards from The Pitch.

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous

Boston Herald: "Simply Fabulous."
Not quoted: "decidedly sitcom-flavored material"; "often seems like an elaborate commercial for the Treasure Island Hotel, and I may not be alone in being tired of Regis Philbin's guest appearances."


A.O. Scott, New York Times: "A gritty and stylish debut. A tour de force."
Actual line: "Like many modern allegories, 'Kontroll,' a tour de force of grime, fluorescence and destinationless velocity, is more concerned with atmosphere than meaning."

Look at Me

J. Hoberman, Village Voice: "The most critically well-received movie in Cannes."
Actual line: "The most critically well-received movie in competition so far, albeit wanly, has been Agnès Jaoui's character-driven comedy Look at Me.

This wasn't part of a Hoberman review, but instead a dispatch from Cannes. Michael Atkinson's Voice review was positive: "Its arcs are too predictable, its assholes too pernicious, its ending too cranked up with crescendo. But it's a tender, expertly wrought piece of human exchange, and therefore a scarce beast."

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Article by Carl Bialik

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