Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

March 28, 2005

The Blurb Racket, 3/25/05

Our weekly roundup of misleading review blurbs in movie ads takes on two panned sequels, three indie flicks, 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 last Friday's paper, I found quotes out of context, lousy reviewers, and faint praise. See last week's inaugural Blurb Racket column for background and useful links.

Miss Congeniality 2

Jeanne Wolf, Jeanne Wolf's Hollywood: "Side splittingly funny. Sandra Bullock's more hilarious and lovable than ever."

Ms. Wolf is a longtime Bullock fan. Her line about The Net—"this edge of your seat nail-biter explodes with suspense. Sandra Bullock is sensational."—was so good, it made the cassette case. Wolf on Two Weeks Notice: "Just what you want in a movie; romance, sizzle and laughs."

The Ring Two

Claudia Puig, USA Today: "More entertaining than the first..."

Actual line: "As in the first movie, there's a lot to the plot that doesn't make sense if analyzed closely, and, as in the first, the end is particularly implausible. But overall, the second Ring is more entertaining."

Not quoted: "[Naomi] Watts has proven herself a Lady of the Rings, but twice is enough. No burning need for a trilogy."

Other reviews come from radio reviewers and reliable movie fans Jim Svejda and Bill Bregoli; and Us magazine reviewer Thelma Adams, who once told CNN, "The expectation [of the studios] is that [reviewers will] come up with something quotable in one sentence. It's part of the give-and-take."

Downfall

Lou Lumenick, New York Post; Claudia Puig, USA Today: three-and-a-half stars

Newmarket Films liked these reviews so much, they listed the stars twice, meaning Lumenick and Puig gave the Hitler film a whopping 14 stars.

Walk on Water

Dana Stevens, New York Times:" A substantial meditation on contemporary politics, sexual and otherwise."
Actual line, in context: " 'Walk on Water' is an odd bird, a slight-feeling indie film that slowly builds into a substantial meditation on contemporary politics, sexual and otherwise. Though it is marred by an implausible climax and a cloying conclusion, this movie's quiet intelligence sneaks up on you, marking the director as a talent to watch."

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: "Fascinating! The film has the spirit to investigate the consequences of giving an enemy a human face."

Actual line: "It deals, in general terms, with the consequences of giving an enemy a human face. ... [285 words later] Balanced against this are the fascinating areas of contemporary tension and conflict that "Walk on Water" has the spirit to investigate, starting with the difficulties today's descendants of Holocaust-era Germans and Jews have in finding common ground."

Not quoted: "at times frustrating ... over-elaborate plot ... there's likely no way all these topics can fit smoothly and comfortably into the same film ... does not always convince ..."

It's a favorable review overall, but the quotes show how complex it is, and how mangled the studio's quote is.

Ice Princess

Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times: "Dazzling Performances!"

Actual line: "To be sure, the film is filled with talented young skaters turning in dazzling performances sure to thrill young girls who would love to take their turn on the ice -- as would Casey. Yet the film is really about young people whose overbearing parents vicariously experience their children's achievements."

The quote implied to me that Thomas loved the acting, not the skating. The review is positive overall, but the quote is misleading.

Claudia Puig, USA Today: "Parents and kids should be heartened to see a G-rated movie that is not dumbed-down or saccharine-sweet. Rather, it's subtly inspiring, focusing not on mean girls but instead on girls getting along and helping one another accomplish their goals."

Not quoted: "Too bad the key conflict feels forced."

D.E.B.S.

Laura Sinagra, Village Voice: " 'D.E.B.S.' scores! A mix of Heathers wit and Batman TV-show camp."

Actual line: "Angela Robinson's D.E.B.S. aims for a mix of Heathers wit and Batman TV-show camp. ... [Compared to Miss Congeniality 2,] D.E.B.S., with its gay-till-graduation exuberance, scores as the more congenial miss.

Not quoted: "The racy preppy humor starts to pile up quick..."

Don't Move

J. Hoberman, Village Voice: "A tale of mad love and divineredemption."

Actual line: "... a compelling if not altogether convincing tale of mad love and divine redemption."

Not quoted: "Played out against the intolerable melodrama of the dying daughter, Don't Move loses momentum well before the final convulsions that send it over the top."

A.O. Scott, New York Times: "A thing of rare and delicate beauty. A beautifully made film."

Actual line: " 'Don't Move' treats this sad, tawdry story like a thing of rare and delicate beauty, and it is a beautifully made film -- decorously composed, meticulously acted, cleanly photographed. But all of these qualities make it seem complacent and hypocritical when it wants to be honest and brave, and sentimental rather than emotionally daring."

Spot critic blurbs worth highlighting? Let us know.

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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