Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

August 11, 2007

'Jane' Becomes a Little Unsatisfying

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 'Becoming Jane,' '2 Days in Paris,' 'Rocket Science,' 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, 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
"Why do Asian-American characters always have to be so stereotypically wacky?"—Lou Lumenick of the New York Post, about Rocket Science

Graphic created by Paul Antonson

Becoming Jane (Miramax)

Kelly Jane Torrance, Washington Times: "Immensely fun."
Actual line: "How could such a seemingly inexperienced girl have written such deep works of art? 'Becoming Jane' takes a superficial—but immensely fun—crack at the question."
Not quoted: " 'Becoming Jane' is a little unsatisfying to this Austen fan. Director Julian Jarrold has made a witty, beautiful film. His technical achievement is no small matter, with nice, long tracking shots and clever focus tricks. But his story's soul is missing something—Austen's genius. In 'Becoming Jane,' the author of some of the greatest novels in the English language says she's ready to throw her talent away if only she can be with the man she loves. But as any reader of a Jane Austen novel will tell you, a clever girl doesn't have to give up her spirit for love."

Stephen Holden, New York Times: " 'Becoming Jane' is a triumph for Anne Hathaway, who brings to the young Jane the same jittery wide-eyed intensity she displayed in 'The Devil Wears Prada.' "
Not quoted: "The screenplay's pseudo-Austen tone is so consistent that its lapses into modern romance-novel fantasy threaten to derail the film. A scene suggesting oral sex between Jane's parents is one. (Ugh!) And after Jane and Tom's first kiss, when Jane coyly inquires about her osculatory technique, you may want to howl."

Hairspray (New Line)

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "It's a knockout! Humor, heart and high spirits."
Actual line: "Despite the PG rating, Waters kept the story cannily subversive. Broadway, with Harvey Fierstein stepping into Edna's muumuus, softened the edges. And Hollywood, with Travolta wearing a fat suit and a Miss Piggy smile, pours on the sugar coating. Still, Hairspray earns knockout status for its humor, heart and high spirits."

For more on Hairspray reviews, see this prior Blurbs column.

El Cantante (Picturehouse)

Agustin Gurza, Los Angeles Times: " 'El Cantante' captures the intoxicating spirit of the salsa explosion."
That's from a Times article about the movie, not the paper's review. The Times website carries this pan from the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips, who calls the film's storytelling "unexceptional" and bemoans the biopic's wading in a "sea of clichés."

Rocket Science (Picturehouse)

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: "Hilarious"
Actual line: "The smitten Hal resorts to a hilarious series of ploys to tame his reluctant tongue, including delivering arguments to the tune of 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic.' "
Not quoted: "While his depiction of the debating milieu seems remarkably authentic, the character quirks often seem less organic than a conscious choice to ape other popular indie comedies. And why do Asian-American characters always have to be so stereotypically wacky?"
For extracting an adjective about a series of ploys and applying it to the whole film, this ad wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week award.

2 Days in Paris (Samuel Goldwyn)

Jim Ridley, Village Voice: "Delpy and Goldber invokes the Woody Allen-Diane Keaton chemistry."
Not quoted: "… some wheezy jibes at Bush and the Iraq War, which sound as toothless as nods to Watergate in a Nixon-era sitcom … As writer-director, Delpy makes some of the usual first-feature mistakes, mostly falling back on narration as a crutch—almost disastrously in the last section, when Jack and Marion are on the verge of breaking up and we want to hear what they're saying."

Daddy Day Camp (Sony)

Janet Stokes, Film Advisory Board: "This is fun entertainment families will enjoy."
The board doesn't review movies, per se, as explained in this prior column.

Earl Dittman, Wireless Magazines: "A hilarious comedy for campers of all ages."
When even Enthusiastic Earl, one of this column's old friends, only recommends a film for campers, you might guess it earned a metascore of 15, meaning critics registered "extreme dislike or disgust."

The Ten (THINKFilm)

Variety: "Gags as envelope-pushing as anything in 'Borat'!"
Actual line: "Only Christians with a very liberal sense of humor are likely to enjoy 'The Ten.' Even lay viewers will need to be tolerant of gags as envelope-pushing as anything in 'Borat.' "
Not quoted: "… uneven but often hilarious …"

Dans Paris (IFC)

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon: "Endearing and unforgettable…"
Actual line: "There's an improvisational quality to Honoré's directing that is often endearing and occasionally maddening."
Not quoted: "… takes quite a while to get going … the movie gradually begins to make sense."

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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