Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Film | The Blurbs

May 18, 2007

Shrek the Turd

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 'Shrek the Third,' 'Georgia Rule,' 'The Wendell Baker Story,' and more.

David Goldenberg

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
"But when [Director Christopher] Smith's Grand Guignol tableaux are strung together, they lack any forward momentum. Some take inspired comic flight. The rest crash to the ground and, like so much else in Severance, go splat."—Scott Foundas, the Village Voice.

Graphic created by Paul Antonson

Shrek the Third (DreamWorks)

Gene Shalit, Today: "No ruler is cooler. Long live Shrek."
Not quoted: "Shrek the Third, like Spiderman the Third and Henry the Third, is the least of the line. The new writers and directors of Shrek 3 lack the Shrek punch. Much of the rollicking fun is gone."

Georgia Rule (Universal)

Shawn Edwards, FOX-TV: "Wonderful! The surprise of the summer. A heartfelt, moving and touching film. Jane Fonda is exceptional. Lindsay Lohan's performance is phenomenal. Felicity Huffman continues to prove her brilliance as one of today's best actresses."
Shawn. Shawn. Shawn. Here's what a real reviewer—Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal—says: "Certain words should be reserved for special occasions. 'Abysmal' is one of them, and Georgia Rule is as special as such occasions get."

Once (Fox Searchlight)

"For more of the 100% positive reviews, log on to rottentomatoes.com."
A big boast, and one that is no longer true.

Fay Grim (Magnolia)

New York Magazine: "Hal Hartley's funniest and sharpest movie in years!"
This blurb comes not from David Edelstein's review (which wasn't nearly as charitable), but from the magazine's email newsletter that recommends three thing to do every night.

Jason Clark, Slant: "Grandly entertaining and relevant, delirious and delectable, Fay Grim is one marvelous creation."
Actual line: "But Fay Grim is no fool (literally, she cheekily keeps her maiden name), and as played by Parker Posey, is one marvelous creation."
Note to PR staff: It's easy to take a compliment about a character and apply it to the film as a whole if they happen to share the same name.

Kim Voynar, Cinematical: "A gem. Just about as sharp and funny as you could wish for."
Actual line: "Henry Fool, in case you've missed seeing it, is a little gem of a film about a socially repressed young man, Simon Grim (James Urbaniak) who works as a garbage man to support his depressed mother and nymphomaniac sister, Fay (Parker Posey, in one of her best roles)."
For taking a description of an older movie in a review and using it to pimp a current one, this blurb wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week award.

Severance (Magnolia)

Scott Foundas, Village Voice/LA Weekly: "Chock-full of nifty sight gags. Director Smith has a knack for deadpan absurdism and an appetite for the macabre."
Not quoted: "But when Smith's Grand Guignol tableaux are strung together, they lack any forward momentum. Some take inspired comic flight. The rest crash to the ground and, like so much else in Severance, go splat."

Brooklyn Rules (City Lights)

Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru: "One of the best crime dramas since A Bronx Tale."
Actual line: "The best crime drama since A Bronx Tale."
Perhaps the PR guys thought that the actual line might be just a little over the top.

The Wendell Baker Story (THINKFilm)

Mark Holcomb: "Unexpectedly personal and affecting."
Actual line: "Wendell Baker’s tenderness for its autumnal supporting cast is unexpectedly personal and affecting."

Ain't It Cool News: "A true wacky-romantic comedy. A lot of fun with all the quirkiness you'd expect. Definitely worth checking out!"
Actual line: "It's not an outstanding film, but a lot of fun with all the quirkiness you expect from those crazy Wilson brothers."
This review was written in March of 2005, right before the movie was originally set to come out…

Brand Upon the Brain! (The Film Company/Vitagraph)

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: "The film casts a mesmerizing spell…delicious, ingenious, often very funny and strangely touching."
Actual line: "…delirious, ingenious, often very funny and strangely touching film"
When it comes to blurbing, there's very little difference between delirious and delicious.

David Goldenberg

David Goldenberg is the co-founder and editor of Gelf, and the host of Geeking Out, Gelf's monthly science speaking series.







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Article by David Goldenberg

David Goldenberg is the co-founder and editor of Gelf, and the host of Geeking Out, Gelf's monthly science speaking series.

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