Universal this month pulled a very dirty trick on members of the Chicago Film Critics Association and, from what I’m told, some other markets as well. Early reports from colleagues that the studio was going to withhold their latest film, Baby Mama, from online critics until the last possible moment seemed, in a word, silly. Since we know the old-fashioned consciousness about the internet critic are mama’s fanboys in their basements with Jolt Cola I.V.’s connected to their crotches - you can understand their trepidation. After all, why would they be interested in a leading lady MILF who makes constant science-fiction references on one of the funniest shows on television? Silly.
(NOTE: Earlier in the week the Rotten Tomatoes score for Baby Mama was at 90% - 9 out of 10 of those "early reviews" that Universal hoped to avoid by inviting the onliners were positive. Since then, as we get closer to print, the score has dipped to 57% with 8 of the last 11 posted reviews negative. Good call, Universal.)
So, despite having (at least) three confirmed screenings in the Chicagoland area in public theaters with more than enough space to accommodate the membership, more than half of the CFCA were relegated to a screening the night before. And not just online critics. Print and radio were also reduced to this treatment while only a handful of select media were invited as early as April 8 and some were invited to all three (including the 10th & the 17th.) 60 members of the CFCA and, give or take, a third were invited to anything allowing a review before their deadlines.
This is the same studio that screened Forgetting Sarah Marshall at least three times before its opening in the city as well and no one, to my knowledge, was left on the chopping block; a film which got Universal its best reviews of the year - including multiple CFCA members who said it was the funniest movie they had seen so far this year. (I don’t know if its the funniest ever, Mr. Roeper, so let’s scale it back a little - but very funny nevertheless.)
Speaking of chopping blocks, the reason for this lengthy introduction is so we can congratulate Universal for getting precisely what they wanted. Few CFCA members would be so bold as to speak out loud such ostentatious prose for a studio to plaster on the film ads. But WGN Radio’s Dean Richards has let it all hang out and called Baby Mama:
"The freshest, funniest comedy of the year."
WOW! Fresh AND funny? That combo has never been utilized together in film before; and certainly never mentioned here on Criticwatch as the mark of the unintelligible blurb whore. I’m sorry, but this is more embarrassment than anything else. One of Windy City’s own who has done little, if anything, to support the organization, when asked, stays in Universal’s favor by either speaking or e-mailing those words to one of their representatives looking for a reaction to the screening that about two-thirds of his colleagues were denied. How does one sit down to write those words? Is that an honest reaction?
Having not seen the film, I cannot attest to how funny it may very well be. But exactly how fresh is it, four months removed from a year known frequently referred to as the “year of the pregnancy.” Does Knocked Up, Waitress and Juno ring a bell? Baby Mama is about as “fresh” as a Maury Povich episode. But maybe it IS the funniest comedy of the year, but how would I know as I stand with my CFCA brothers and sisters who weren’t invited.
Besides, I have it on good authority from Shawn Edwards that Drillbit Taylor was “the freshest and funniest comedy in a long time.” Good company, Dean.
Film Title: Drillbit Taylor
Released by: Paramount
Tomatometer: 24% (as of Mar. 22, 2008)
Respected Critics Say:
“Because the filmmakers plant their laugh-generating derrick over the same comic well that’s been pumped out twice before, Drillbit Taylor hits a dry hole.” – Larry Ratliff, San Antonio Express-News
“With ‘Drillbit Taylor,’ however, Apatow hands the reins over to his protégés and replaces his delicate balancing act with a steep, sudden fall.” – Dan Lybarger, eFilmCritic
“I’d call it a pointless endeavor, except now we might finally be able to pinpoint the source of Wilson’s recent depression.” – Pete Vonder Haar, Film Threat
What Roger Moore said at Rotten Tomatoes:
“Movies such as this remind us that Owen Wilson is nothing less than a national treasure.” - Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
But we’re not here to talk about Roger Moore. Although that quote at RT was too precious to ignore from that tool. It actually began with seeing Shawn Edwards as the sole quote provider on Friday’s newspaper ads for Drillbit. "Awesome! The freshest and funniest comedy in a long time," said 2007’s Whore of the Year taking in his 8th quote of the year. (His 9th is right around the corner with next week’s Stop-Loss which he calls "honest and brave." Currently 76% of quoted critics are in direct opposition with the guy who called another Owen Wilson film "refreshingly funny." (That would be 2004’s Starsky & Hutch.) But there was something far more disturbing in store for us on Saturday’s ads.
"Big laughs with a lot of heart." – Pete Hammond, Boxoffice.com
PETE HAMMOND IS BACK??? You can almost here Harry Potter saying those words at the end of the Goblet of Fire. Sure, he’s already been quoted on two other ads this year. One, for Charlie Bartlett, could be attributed to that film being screened for him when he was pimped out by Maxim last August when it was originally supposed to open. But forget all that. Boxoffice.com? Most websites would want to up their profile as opposed to inviting national scorn from respected critics and net-savvy bloggers. Why in Sam Hell would you want to invite this guy to be writing film reviews for you? From what I can tell you have a pretty decent set of critics over there. Certainly a lot more objective than the cash prospective reviews of Variety, which Hammond already blogs for.
A quick look at the films of March you have reviewed on your front page and Hammond already has two four-star (out of five) reviews for Drillbit and Horton Hears a Who? but also a three-star review for the unscreened Doomsday (which I will also admit a certain guilty pleasure for.) But one guilty pleasure doesn’t make up for three-and-a-half years of fluffer quotes for all films good and bad. To the editors of BoxOffice.com - save yourself now before Hammond grows out of control again. We’ve had a good thing for the first three months of 2008 with only three Easy Petey sightings. We need to get our focus back on Shawn Edwards and shame him out of existence.