Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

March 9, 2007

'Wild Hogs' Is Hysterically Funny. Well, Sometimes. Mostly Its Premise.

In this week's edition of Blurb Racket—the Gelf 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 Wild Hogs, Black Snake Moan, 300, 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 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
"The overall effect is part BBC-style biography, part Hollywood-like hagiography, and generally pleasing and often moving, even when the story wobbles off the historical rails or becomes bogged down in dopey romance."—Manohla Dargis of the New York Times on Amazing Grace

Graphic created by Paul Antonson

Black Snake Moan (Paramount Vantage)

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon: " 'Pulp Fiction' with a Southern accent and a heart of gold."
Not quoted: "A memorable work of art? Well, I'm not so sure about that."

Wild Hogs (Touchstone)

Pete Hammond, Maxim: "Hysterically funny! It's 'City Slickers' on bikes!"
Actual line: "… a sometimes hysterically funny comedy that is essentially City Slickers on bikes."
Not quoted: "the premise is funnier than most of the film …"
For eliding "sometimes" from the normally buoyant Hammond's tepid review, this ad wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week award.

The Namesake (Fox Searchlight)

Owen Glieberman, Entertainment Weekly: "A marvelous and moving cross-cultural family saga that is also funny, empathetic, and sexy."
Actual line: "[Mira] Nair's work is certainly empathic (and also funny and sexy and rueful), yet watching The Namesake, her moving and marvelous new cross-cultural family saga, I was struck by the nearly sculptural skill with which she expresses that spirit—her arrangement, for instance, of people in a suburban kitchen, so that their intimacy is offset by the way they stare into their cereal bowls, or how a father's love for his son is conveyed powerfully by his devout refusal to say it."
Not quoted: "It's one of those adaptations that's so sprawling and episodic and crammed with incident that, at times, you may wish you were reading the novel."
Glieberman's review unquestionably is a rave, but the studio mangled his wording, to an extend unusual even for the blurbing biz.

300 (Warner Bros.)

Paul Fischer, Dark Horizons: "A masterpiece that is thrilling, sexy and totally mesmerizing."
Gelf was unable to find this review on the Dark Horizons site. Nor could we find raves promised from MSN and IESB.net. eFilmCritic says the movie is "using the same whores to promote the film a week in advance" rather than "big-name critics or just those that can be trusted to separate the truly extraordinary from the hyperbolic." The big-name critics weren't very positive, giving a cumulative score of 53 out of 100 on Metacritic.

Amazing Grace (Samuel Goldwyn Films/Roadside Attractions)

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: "Moving!"
Actual line: "The overall effect is part BBC-style biography, part Hollywood-like hagiography, and generally pleasing and often moving, even when the story wobbles off the historical rails or becomes bogged down in dopey romance."
Not quoted: "In some quarters, 'Amazing Grace' will succeed better as a diversion than as a nuanced record of Wilberforce’s life."

Jack Matthews, New York Daily News: "Powerful!"
Not quoted: " 'Amazing Grace' does occasionally lapse into History Channel exposition."

Into Great Silence (Zeitgeist)

Stuart Klawans, the Nation: "Stunning."
Not quoted: "After you've spent 162 minutes of contemplating the monks and their experience, you may wonder whether the better part of our lives is spent just registering the changing light."

Exterminating Angels (IFC First Take)

A.O. Scott, New York Times: "Seriously dirty. A suave and salacious new movie."
Not quoted: "windy … a lot of chin-scratching talk about pleasure and transgression …"

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: "Raunch of the most decorous kind."
Not quoted: "a messy, imperfect work …"

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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