Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

August 30, 2010

'The Switch' Is 'a Tacky Comedy'

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 ads for 'The Switch,' 'Nanny McPhee Returns,' 'The Last Exorcism,' 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, 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.

"Put your sophisticated comedy hopes on hold as you suffer through the following description."—Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman on The Switch

The Switch (Miramax)
Metacritic Score: 53

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: " 'The Switch' is a pleasant surprise. Aniston is at her most sexy and charming."

Actual line: "When I heard about The Switch, a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston as a Manhattan singleton who decides to get pregnant on her own, I confess that I had no desire to see it. I'd already been through Jennifer Lopez in The Back-Up Plan, and frankly, one screwball sperm-donor chick flick per year seemed more than enough. But The Switch is a pleasant surprise. It's a by-the-numbers movie, but the dots that get connected feel new. Aniston, playing a forward-thinking lonely girl, is at her most sexy and charming—and no, I'm not saying that to be nice, I'm saying it because she's sexy and charming, dammit. Why all the Internet brickbats toward this woman? Sure, a lot of her movies (such as The Bounty Hunter) are crap, but that has more to do with the current state of romantic comedy than it does with her willowy and buoyant middle-class appeal."
Not quoted: "The sperm-donor mix-up plot is the least elegant aspect of the movie, so put your sophisticated comedy hopes on hold as you suffer through the following description: Kassie, on her own but eager to have a baby, has personally selected her donor, a square-jawed surfer-blond dude named Roland (Patrick Wilson). To toast her impending pregnancy, she throws a party in which Roland is asked to leave his crucial sample in the bathroom. He does—but Wally, in a drunken haze, pours it down the drain and leaves his own sample instead. … The romantic-triangle plot, however, is standard issue: Wilson, looking more than ever like Paul Newman, does his jerk-lite variations, and [Jason] Bateman winds his way toward the big moment when he declares his feelings to Aniston."

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: "Warm and witty. See for yourself."
Actual line: "… warm and occasionally witty … See for Yourself."
Not quoted: "… straight formula comedy … it's a tacky comedy, but we live in a tacky age … the script, save for sputtering through oddly-placed bits of voice-over narration, just witty enough to make me hope Aniston might finally be into the Sandra Bullock portion of her career …"
Not only did the ad cut the word "occasionally" that qualifies "witty," but it also puts "see for yourself" completely out of context. That's the heading the Orlando Sentinel puts over an infobox at the end of all its reviews, listing the cast, director, running time, and rating. Moore gave Vampires Suck one star out of four, saying the title was "too apt." Yet that review, too, said "see for yourself" at the bottom. For these transgressions, this ad wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week Award.

James Verniere, Boston Herald: "Aniston and Bateman are gifted comic actors. They have chemistry to spare and genuine charisma."
Not quoted: "… mighty predictable … The setup is nothing special … gets off to a rough start with muffled voice-over and a scene in which a man with Tourette's cruelly mocks people in the street."

Nanny McPhee Returns
Nanny McPhee Returns (Universal)
Metacritic Score: 52

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: "One of the best children's movies of the year."
Actual line: "Sweet, sentimental, silly and star-studded, 'Nanny McPhee Returns' is one of the best children's movies of the year …"
Not quoted: "The first 'Nanny McPhee' was warmer and a lot more arch. … There are anachronisms in the speech and haircut of the kids. And TV director Susanna White doesn't do much with the whimsical inventions that keep the farm going, or the (often digital) animals that populate it. … See for Yourself"

The Last Exorcism
The Last Exorcism (Lionsgate)
Metacritic Score: 63

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: " 'The Last Exorcism' gives you good reason to be very afraid of the dark."
Not quoted: "… a movie made from spare parts …"

Sandy Kenyon, WABC: "The scariest movie of the summer!"
Not quoted: "No new ground is broken here. We've been to the spooky house in the backwoods so many times before." "Shocking and utterly hair-raising edge-of-your seat terror!"
Not quoted: "The film does cheat you, though, with a very facile and lazy ending that could have been much more powerful had it been more thought out more and elaborated upon."

Eat Pray Love
Eat Pray Love (Columbia)
Metacritic Score: 50

Christy Lemire, Associated Press: " 'Eat Pray Love' provides a gorgeous escape… Julia Roberts is radiant…"
Actual line: " 'Eat Pray Love' does exactly what it should to satisfy its core audience: It provides a gorgeous escape, exquisitely photographed and full of female wish fulfillment. … Roberts is radiant as ever, and director and co-writer Ryan Murphy's adaptation allows her to show off her full range with plenty of hardcore hanky moments."
Not quoted: "… the Bali section is overlong and it wraps up the film with the kind of romantic comedy cliches that, for the most part, were blissfully absent from the first two-thirds."

A.O. Scott, New York Times: "Sumptuous … A generous blend of wish fulfillment, vicarious luxury, wry humor and spiritual uplift…"
Not quoted: "… does that mean, in the end, that it reverts to the man-centric romantic-comedy formula? Yes and no. Mr. Murphy, whose television work ('Nip/Tuck' and 'Glee,' most notably) can be sharp-edged even to the point of meanness, is much softer here, and 'Eat Pray Love' can serve as a reminder that television is, at the moment, a braver and more radical medium than the movies. 'Eat Pray Love' is unlikely to change anybody's life or even to provoke emotions anywhere near as intense as those experienced, early and late, by its intrepid heroine. Its span may be global, but its scope is modest, and it accepts a certain superficiality as the price of useful insight."

Centurion (Magnet)
Metacritic Score: 62

F.X. Feeney, Village Voice: "A highly enjoyable action-adventure. Director Marshall imagines and communicates a remote world with terrific energy and a passion for detail."
Not quoted: "Marshall's excellent direction only becomes rushed when the Picts approach Poots's hut to search for the Romans. Their supposed fear of this beauty's reputation for witchcraft is alluded to in the dialogue, but it isn't persuasively conveyed, so you're obliged to wonder why these otherwise relentless brutes don't just go busting in."

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon: "Rousing, startling and intense. It offers riveting storytelling, gorgeous cinematography and scenery and loads of gore."
Actual line: "Part of Marshall's genius lies in the fact that you're free to enjoy 'Centurion' as a rousing, high-integrity B movie. But I'm afraid he's also preaching an inescapable historical gospel on how the vanity and corruption of powerful empires lead them to learn the same painful lessons, over and over again. … This is such a well-rehearsed kind of movie—the bloody, filthy, sword-and-sandal epic, customarily starring Russell Crowe or Mel Gibson or some other handsome dude with 'tude—that it's startling to discover how compelling a good example can still be. … intense period action flick … 'Centurion' has its moments of manly cornpone camaraderie and certainly isn't blazingly original, but it offers riveting storytelling, gorgeous cinematography and scenery, loads of gore, and a politically complicated history lesson.
Not quoted: "Into the fantasy category falls Quintus' liaison with an exiled Pictish witch named Arianne, played by the gorgeous English actress Imogen Poots (and I really hope she can become a star with that name). It's a lovely but not entirely convincing interlude, suggesting that individuals—Quintus, you, me, Conrad's Mr. Kurtz—have the option of escaping from history."

New York: "Gorgeous, gory, admirably no-nonsense action flick."
Actual line: "Gorgeous, gory, and almost proudly pointless, [director Neil] Marshall's modern-day B-movie about a small group of Roman soldiers trying not to get killed by barbarians on foreign soil is an admirably no-nonsense action flick."
Not quoted: "Some real characters might have helped."

Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom (Sony)
Metacritic Score: 83

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: "A phenomenal debut! [Director David] Michôd fills a large canvas with startling moments and vivid details."
Not quoted: "Like many Australian films, 'Animal Kingdom' moves at a deliberate pace, and its accents can be challenging for American ears."

Stephen Holden, New York Times: "Terrific! The Australian answer to 'Goodfellas.' "
Not quoted: "The knotty screenplay, which proceeds in fits and starts…"

Get Low
Get Low (Sony)
Metacritic Score: 77

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: "I'm eager to see 'Get Low' again. A pitch-perfect Sissy Spacek."
Not quoted: "At times, the script creaks; when one character takes his leave by saying "I'm outta here," the anachronism bell rings. (Also, Lucas Black can do only so much as Quinn's bland assistant.)"

The Tillman Story
The Tillman Story (Weinstein Co.)
Metacritic Score: 86

Claudia Puig, USA Today: "Fascinating."
Not quoted: "Occasionally, a scene feels jarringly forced, such as when a key player is shown picking up a phone, as if hearing news for the first time."

Flipped (Warner Bros.)
Metacritic Score: 41

Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times: " 'Flipped' is a special movie that wraps you up in so much warmth, humor and humanity that it will leave you wishing that stories like this weren't so rare."
Actual line: " 'Flipped' is the kind of small, special movie that wraps you up in so much warmth, humor and humanity that it will leave you wishing that stories like this weren't so rare."
Apparently the folks in the ad department didn't want people to see the film as small.

Soul Kitchen
Soul Kitchen (IFC)
Metacritic Score: 75

Stephen Holden, New York Times: "A sweet slapstick farce that never loses its exuberance."
Not quoted: "[One scene] isn't laugh-out-loud-funny so much as warmly amusing. We've seen it before, just as we've also seen the mishap at a funeral when, to the mourners' shock and chagrin, a coffin is dropped, rather than lowered into the ground, and the corpse's legs are exposed."

Cairo Time
Cairo Time (IFC)
Metacritic Score: 67

Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times: " 'Cairo Time' is well worth the trip. The film rises on the heat of Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig."
Not quoted: "The dialogue is spare, a good thing since it is here that nuance suddenly and regrettably occasionally slips away with moments that strain credibility and a few lines likely to make you cringe."

La Soga
La Soga (7-57)
Metacritic Score: 51

Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times: "Near-poetic intensity."
Not quoted: " 'La Soga' moves with a crazed energy that denies moral nuance. But the banal narrative (based on events in [screenwriter Manny] Perez's life) is elbowed aside by Josh Crook's eccentric direction…"

Daniel and Ana
Daniel and Ana (Alameda)
Metacritic Score: 43

Leslie Felperin, Variety: "Striking! A real shocker!"
Actual line: "While Ana is out shopping with her shy but good-natured 16-year-old brother Daniel (Dario Yazbek Bernal), the two of them are kidnapped by a gang. The sequence proves striking: It unfolds quietly, with no shouting or fuss, creating maximal realism but dread all the same. … Last act introduces a real shocker …"
Not quoted: "Adopting a show-don't-tell approach to narrative, the screenplay leaves it to the audience to map the psychological terrain, which will frustrate some but thrill others who prefer oblique storytelling. Nevertheless, without full critical support, the pic will struggle to expand beyond the fest circuit …"

Mesrine: Killer Instinct
Mesrine: Killer Instinct (New American Vision)
Metacritic Score: 68

Patrick Goldstein, Los Angeles Times: "An incredibly charismatic performance, full of sex appeal and swagger."
Not quoted: "The movie is undone by its willingness to wallow in every violent chapter of Mesrine's career. Having served as a no-holds-barred army interrogator in the Algerian war of independence, he seems to believe that any act of brutality is justified by the circumstances. But eventually the brutality gets the better of the film. It definitely got the better of the audience today. Though the film drew a nice-sized crowd, not everyone stayed to the finish. … I stuck around to the bitter end, but I can't say that I'm holding my breath to see what happens in Part 2. Mesrine may have once captured the imagination of France, but in this film, he's just another bad guy destined to meet a bad end. As I left the screening, a Frenchman nearby offered his own pithy assessment: 'Mal, mal, mal.' "

The Sicilian Girl
The Sicilian Girl (Music Box)
Metacritic Score: 48

New York Magazine: "Charts a gripping trajectory of revenge, betrayal, and retribution."
Not quoted: "… hindered by uneven performances."

Washington City Paper: "Fascinating, thrilling, nail-biting!"
Not quoted: "This fictionalization romanticizes some details and, despite its excellent execution—particularly [Veronica ] D'Agostino's passionate performance—it may leave you wishing you'd just caught the doc instead."

Highwater (ATO)
Metacritic Score: 48

John Anderson, Variety: "A propulsive film … a nonfiction thriller."
Not quoted: "[Director Dana] Brown's enthusiasm for the sport tends to overwhelm any critique of its inherent dangers—the one death that occurs is spin-doctored into a tribute to the surfers' sense of community, rather than their craziness. Brown doesn't have quite the hook here he had in his acclaimed 'Step Into Liquid' … Brown is a proselytizer, and his narration is full of hyperbole, overstatement and heavy salesmanship but, mercifully, avoids the word 'stoked.' Long-time champ Sunny Garcia is described as 'fearlessly human,' however; the jury hasn't come back on that one."

The Concert
The Concert (Weinstein Co.)
Metacritic Score: 58

Stephen Holden, New York Times: "Mélanie Laurent is radiant."
Actual line: "Ms. Laurent ('Inglourious Basterds') is a radiant screen presence among an otherwise ramshackle assemblage, and the movie bets all its chips on her performance to deliver a shamelessly tear-jerking payoff."
Not quoted: "Lunging wildly between satirical farce and teary sentimentality … Hoary stereotypes abound. Drunken Russians, thieving Gypsies, crooked oligarchs and zealous former Communist apparatchiks: all are caricatured in a story whose multiple subplots tumble over one another in a chaotic pileup. … Unless you buy 'The Concert's' nonsensical premise—the film was written by Mr. Mihaileanu, Alan-Michel Blanc and Matthew Robbins—appreciation of this satirical fairy tale is next to impossible. … 'The Concert' doesn't even pretend to understand the workings of the classical music world. … The harder this desperately obsequious circus of a movie tries to entertain, the more it falls short."

Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News: "Funny and touching!"
Actual line: " 'The Concert' is funny and touching in its finest moments. But it's also supremely predictable and shamelessly formulaic."
Not quoted: "… Between the wacky contrivances and heart-tugging revelations, [director Radu] Mihaileanu hits every obvious note."

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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