Even the least savvy newspaper reader knows that there’s something fishy about those film ads sandwiched near the end of entertainment sections across the land.
I mean, when you see an ad for, say, MR. WRONG and read the bold-faced quote of some “movie critic” or other who proclaims, “MR. WRONG Is So Right,” or another who declares a Pauly Shore movie “brilliant,” you must know you’re being manipulated, right?
Just how much, though? I sorted through the ads in last Sunday’s LOS ANGELES TIMES in search of an answer and came up with five tips for sorting your way through what could only be called – in the best of all worlds – complete and utter bullshit.
[ Consider the source. ] ^ On the LITTLE NICKY ad, we learn that MAXIM Magazine feels “it would be a mortal sin to miss” the movie. Now, miss it I have – with future plans to continue missing it – so perhaps I’m defensive. Still, it seems somehow inherently wrong for me to be damned to purgatory by the same people who encourage men to pick up woman who don’t speak English (“When there’s a language barrier, the single most important thing a man can do is look good,” the magazine tells us). Don’t forget, too, that critics like to show you how clever they are (Sandler plays the devil’s son and missing it would be a “mortal sin” – get it?) As a writer that’s constantly trying to impress people with my own cleverness, I empathize – but that still doesn’t mean Sandler’s going to get my $8.50.
[ Final Word: ] Don’t take advice from a magazine like “Maxim” unless it’s about sex and you’re a desperate male. Even then, you probably shouldn’t take it.
[ Consider the phrasing. ] ^ The ad for RED PLANET informs us that Jeffrey Lyons from WNBC-TV feels the movie is “as intelligent as it is entertaining.” Now, Lyons is a pretty positive guy (he found PAY IT FORWARD “deeply moving”) but let’s say he wasn’t a sycophant masquerading as a movie critic. You could say that THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE – or, indeed, any Andrew Dice Clay vehicle – is as intelligent as it is entertaining. (In other words, not intelligent or entertaining at all). You’d get points for simile use and for making life a little bit easier for the people who market horrible movies.
[ Final Word: ] When the intelligence of a movie is considered to be on par with its entertainment value, try to make sure “intelligence” isn’t being loosely defined as “containing (some) complete sentences.”
[ Consider those words the ad is not including. ] ^ According to the ad for CHARLIE’S ANGELS, GOOD MORNING AMERICA’s Joel Siegel wants us to “Think James Bond meets AUSTIN POWERS with a little MATRIX thrown in!” Makes it all sound like a giddy, exciting, hilarious romp, doesn’t it? But what Siegel actually said before this quote-worthy sentence was, “The stunts don’t even try to seem real” – and then followed that up with those references to far superior cinematic adventures.
[ Final Word: ] A comparison to another movie isn’t always a compliment. Try to get your hands on the real review to see what words weren’t deigned effective for the ad campaign.
[ Consider the fact that some “critics” love everything. ] ^ Jeffrey Lyons is either my polar opposite on the movie appreciation spectrum or one of those people naturally filled to the brim with Prozac. For THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE ad tells us that Lyons feels the film is not only a “masterpiece” but it is also “hauntingly beautiful, tender and superb.” But guess what? Go look up the guy’s review and – here’s something you don’t find very often – he loved it even more than the ad makes you think. It “reaffirms” his “faith that somewhere out there, great films are being made” and he tells us that “this movie will touch you deeply.” Well, perhaps Lyons should be handing out refunds because the only deep feeling the movie provoked in me was a need to close my eyes and escape the tedium.
[ Final Word: ] If Lyons is your movie guru, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the dark.
[ Consider the possibility of temporary insanity. ] ^ Now, Kevin Thomas of THE LOS ANGELES TIMES is a bright guy – a solid critic with good taste. But when I saw the ad for LUCKY NUMBERS with Thomas’ quote that it’s a “witty and ingenious comedy,” I knew something was amiss. I was surprised to discover that in the review, Thomas had gone completely Jeffrey Lyons on us. The movie, according to Thomas, is not only “witty” and “ingenious” – it’s also “clever,” “diverting,” “fast-paced” and “unpretentious.” I had to stop and ask myself some pertinent questions: Did Thomas wander into the wrong screening room (MEET THE PARENTS, perhaps?) Is he a “brother” to Travolta, in the Scientology sense of the word?
[ Final Word: ] Maybe Thomas is due for that annual two-week vacation.
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