Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

December 1, 2007

Ravaging Final Scene of 'Savages'

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 'The Savages,' 'Enchanted,' 'Awake,' 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, and find out what critics think of the racket here.

"I would have ended 'The Savages' just before the final scene."—Lou Lumenick, New York Post

The Savages (Fox Searchlight)
Metacritic Score: 86/100

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: "Expect Oscar® nominations for Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney…the actors are pitch-perfect—and darkly hilarious."
Not quoted: "I would have ended 'The Savages' just before the final scene."

Badland (Badland Corp.)
Metacritic Score: 36/100

William Wolf, "Badland is a strong, absorbing, impressive, involving work."
Not quoted: "Some of the story is excessively drawn out and over the top … I have a serious quarrel with the ending of the film concerning what I consider a gratuitous plot development that will leave a viewer upset, but in a way that detracts from the main thrust of what a viewer should be upset about. Without giving away the specifics, I can say that I felt manipulated unnecessarily in an occurrence that deviates from what the film is really expressing."
Wolf is a former newspaper critic who now self-publishes. The ad contains no blurbs from major media, though it does contain clips from news articles as a strange sort of validation for the film's premise: See, it's pertinent!

Enchanted (Disney)
Metacritic Score: 75/100

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: "Delightful."
Not quoted: "It would be too much to expect Disney to wholly dismantle its own mythologies, thereby freeing young female hearts and minds from the curse of Prince Charming, so it’s no surprise that 'Enchanted' trips up on its way to the finish. The windup disappoints, as does Susan Sarandon's Queen Narissa, who enters in a bilious puff as if dressed for a fetish ball."

Claudia Puig: "Irresistible."
Actual line: "The travails of this maiden in Manhattan will prove irresistible to audiences hungry for fanciful holiday entertainment."
Not quoted: "… not seamless in its blend of cartoon and live action … it's a fairly predictable fish-out-of-water tale …"
Consider this writer among movie viewers not hungry for fanciful holiday entertainment.

Awake (MGM, Weinstein Co.)
Metacritic Score: 29/100

Earl Dittman, Wireless Magazine: "The year's best psychological thriller. Intense and edgy … it will leave you breathless! Jessica Alba is stunning!"
The return of our old friend is no surprise for a movie with a Metacritic score of 29. Alternate blurbs available include: "Although admittedly marred by plot holes deep enough for a truck to fall into, 'Awake' didn't deserve the big sleep" (Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter); "It's not a good movie but it's silly and lively enough to keep most viewers from dozing off" (James Berardinelli, Reelviews); and "possibly the worst movie of 2007" (Jack Matthews, New York Daily News, leaving open the possibility it's not the worst)..

Margot at the Wedding (Paramount Vantage)
Metacritic Score: 70/100

A.O. Scott, New York Times: "Frequently brilliant—mercilessly, squirm-inducingly funny. [Noah] Baumback has an unfailing ear for the idioms of the intelligentsia and an acute sense of family politics. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jack Black have never been better."
Not quoted: "… frequently brilliant, finally baffling film. In the final third, the proliferating complications and dramatic revelations start to feel increasingly rushed and hysterical. There is a fine line between depicting emotional anarchy and succumbing to it, and Mr. Baumbach, eager to avoid anything that might seem obvious, stacks up appalling and improbable climactic incidents that finally undermine the logic of the story. The result is that the audience may tire of the characters too quickly. Yes, they've been dreadful from the start, but interesting enough that you at least wanted to stick around and see what they would do next. Which makes your relief at being rid of them (after only 93 minutes!) something of a disappointment as well."
The preceding words, which close the review, make it far less positive than Metacritic's 80 score would suggest. For turning Scott's weary words into a rave, this ad wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week Award.

Beowulf (Paramount )
Metacritic Score: 59/100

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: "Eye-popping 3D! 'Beowulf' is a thrilling spectacle with sumptuous visuals, a smart script and spirited performances."
Not quoted: "I have seen 'Beowulf' only in 3-D: first at a screening in digital 3-D, the eye-popping version that's being shown at more than 700 conventional theaters around the country, then at a screening in the eye-popping plus jaw-dropping 3-D version that is filling the giant screens of more than 100 IMAX theaters as well. It's possible that the pleasures of this added dimension have skewed my judgment by turning me into a 3-D junkie, and that readers who see only the 2-D version will find the film, or my review, one-dimensional. If so, I apologize in advance, but due diligence has its limits. … 'Beowulf' deserves to be taken semiseriously; its eye candy is mixed with narrative fiber and dramatic protein. But it begs to be taken frivolously."

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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