Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Ad Watch | The Blurbs

April 8, 2005

Blurb Racket 4/8/05

Our weekly roundup of misleading review blurbs in movie ads takes on Kung Fu Hustle, Sin City, 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.

Kung Fu Hustle (Sony)

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "Join the hustle! Fun this smart is a gift!"
Actual line: "You get the picture. And if you don't, join the hustle. Nothing is safe from Chow, who spoofs the CGI tricks of The Matrix, turns his characters into live-action cartoons and then, miraculously, makes it all ring true. Does the plot spin out of control? You bet. But dumb fun this smart is a gift."
Join the hustle! Dumb misquotes are fun!

Ken Tucker, New York Magazine: "Exhilarating! A thrilling, dreamy action comedy—gives chaos a good name!"
Actual line: "...half-amazing, half-ridiculous, thoroughly exhilarating new ... what? ... [15 words earlier, in the subheadline] a thrilling, dreamy action comedy—gives chaos a good name."

Roger Ebert: "Imagine a film in which Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton meet Quentin Tarantino and Bugs Bunny."
Entire review: "I must not neglect Stephen Chow's 'Kung Fu Hustle,' which is—what? Imagine a film in which Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton meet Quentin Tarantino and Bugs Bunny. Yes. That describes it nicely."
That was all Ebert wrote, which leaves open the question of whether that combo is a good thing.

Sin City (Dimensions)

Mike Clark, USA Today: "A movie that will define this year ... genuine fun!"
Not quoted: "worst-of-all-date-movies" ... "Told in three parts with, alas, the best one first" ... "it benefits more from the novelty of seeing actors imposed against imaginatively computerized backgrounds than any screenwriting to write home about" ... "Occasionally very funny, the picture tends to coast on its cosmetics."

Happily Ever After (Kino International)

Stephen Holden, New York Times: "Carried off with grace, wit and refinement."
Actual line: "In its fixation on the male wandering eye and female tolerance of it, Yvan Attal's 'Happily Ever After' suggests a Parisian answer to Mike Binder's television series ''The Mind of the Married Man.' The movie, which features a nearly silent cameo by Johnny Depp, is carried off with twice the grace, wit and refinement of Mr. Binder's commercially compromised work."
Does twice the grace, wit, and refinement of a bad TV show equal a good movie?

Others

Sahara (Paramount) uses nine blurbs, eight of them from TV reviewers—including Gelf favorite Shawn Edwards—and the ninth from Chuck Thomas of something called Movie Reviews and Previews. And Fever Pitch (20th Century Fox) uses two of the same TV critics: NBC's Jeffrey Lyons and Today's Gene Shalit.

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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