A few weeks back we commented on Peter Travers’ nearly full month early rave of The Dark Knight. While the rest of us sit on our embargoed praise, Travers is out there throwing adjectives around to guarantee his little Rolling Stone rag will have top placement come the first ads; a fact confirmed as he has received the sole quote in Sunday’s New York Times:
“A thunderbolt is about to rip into the blanket of bland we call summer movies. FEVERISH ACTION? Check. DAZZLING SPECTACLE? Check. DEVILISH FUN? Check. Just hang on for a shock to the system. Every actor brings his “A” game to show the lure of the dark side. The haunting and visionary Dark Knight soars on the wings of untamed imagination.”
Whether or not I agree with him is immaterial. You can read my review at the site on Thursday when most professionals get to unleash their Oscar-bait praise. But it’s the first part of Travers’ quote that I take umbridge with. The blanket of bland that we call summer movies? If Travers was some high-falutin’ critic on the arthouse beat who looked at the blockbuster season with the same pretense of those who claim not to own televisions, that would be some pretty hefty praise for The Dark Knight. Except he’s not a high-falutin’ critic. He’s Peter Travers. And reading his quotes would hardly leave you with the impression that he’s been bored with the same shit, different week of this summer. Just on quotes alone, in eleven weeks of the summer season we’ve had so far, Travers has jerked it seven times for major releases.
Iron Man - Spectacular…Iron Man kicks off summer on a blazing high note and practically dares the competition to measure up. It’s been years since a movie superhero was this fierce and this funny. You can feel the exhilaration.
Speed Racer - Visually the movie is a powerhouse.
Sex and the City - Snap out of it, guys, you just might learn something. Sarah Jessica Parker is funny, touching and vital.
Get Smart - Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway spark off of each other.
Wanted - I love it. Sexy, built to thrill.
Hancock - Hugely entertaining! Jason Bateman never makes a false move and a stellar Charlize Theron springs her own bolts from the blue…As for Will Smith, he’s on fire. There’s nothing like a star shining on his highest beams. You follow him anywhere.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Hellboy II is a surprise package of fun and untamed imagination.
OK, so that’s not every major release of the ’08 summer. Where’s WALL-E, Journey to the Center of the Earth or The Incredible Hulk. Oh wait, found them.
The Incredible Hulk - "The latest spin on the Marvel comic-book hero delivers the popcorn goods."
WALL-E - "No movie can be a downer that fills you with pure exhilaration. You leave WALL-E with a feeling of the rarest kind: that you’ve just enjoyed a close encounter with an enduring classic."
Journey to the Center of the Earth - "I don’t know if 3-D could improve all movies (nothing could make The Love Guru funny) but it sure works here."
So he didn’t like The Love Guru. What a stretch! If you check out his reviews from May until this weekend at Rotten Tomatoes, he’s gone positive on 19 of the 25 films. He also panned Meet Dave (which Jeffrey Lyons said reminded him of Being There), You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Narnia Deux and, of all things, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. That’s still not a whole lot of bland, Pete. It’s been nearly two months since you panned the kind of slam-bang, blow your ass through the back of the theater powerhouse that is synonymous with the summer season. Of course, if you chose your words more carefully you wouldn’t be you. A giant hemorrhoid on the ass-end of criticism.
Film Title: 21
Released by: Sony
Tomatometer: 37% (as of Mar. 28, 2008)
Respected Critics Say:
“It has some decent eye candy, but overall this film is bluffing if they think it’s a great, intelligent blackjack film. I know I just used a poker term, but I doubt 21 would have noticed.” – Jeff Bayer, Daily Herald (IL)
“None of the main stars is remotely convincing as a smart person..” – Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly
“For high-stakes drama, stick with The Price is Right.” – Matt Pais, Metromix.com
What I Said:
"You have a director so inept that he doesn’t even understand what genre he’s working within and he’s helped destroy potentially one of the most riveting and important social statements about Las Vegas the movies could have seen." – Erik Childress, eFilmCritic.com
What Peter Travers Said:
“Odds are you’re going to like this lively spin on the true story of six MIT mathletes who broke the Vegas Bank. It’s a kick to watch Kevin Spacey and a gifted young cast use smarts to deal audiences a winning hand.” - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
And thus begins the annual Travers surge into Spring, where his seemingly dormant self that’s provided hope we won’t see his name plastered on every major release, awakens to push himself into the national consciousness as a film critic that matters. If you can find five reviews for the movie 21 that doesn’t feature some sort of blackjack lingo in the positive or negative, your luck suggests you should maybe be headed to Vegas this weekend. (And I’m as guilty of it as the next.) But can you really take that quote from him as enticement to see one of the worst films of the year? In the spirit of his hamminess, trust me on this one and take the insurance. Don’t double down and if someone suggests 21 at the theater this weekend, HIT them hard and split.
Travers is also touting Stop-Loss (currently 58% at RT) this weekend as "the first major movie of the year that touches greatness." That despite calling Charlie Bartlett "a winner", George Romero "a master" and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days "a masterwork." He is joined on the ads by reigning whore of the year Shawn Edwards calling it "honest and brave" and a huge surprise appearance by none other than Bryan Erdy. If you don’t remember his name, then you haven’t been paying much attention to Disney ads because they have been his lock stock for years. No other studio has had the services of Erdy under our watch. Until now. "Provocative. A Wake-up call for America!" says Erdy. And what a self-statement that is. If you go back a few weeks to when Disney was touting its Martin Lawrence/Raven Symone auteur piece, College Road Trip, you would have seen the following words plastered across the screen:
"One fun ride." "Hilarious." "Heartwarming." "The first must see comedy of 2008."
Just those words. Who knows where they came from? No names were there to claim them. It’s almost as if someone at the studio just made those up for our expense. I suppose if David Manning is shouting praise in a forest and no one hears him then he doesn’t exist. Or something like that. But wait a moment, HERE COMES BRYAN ERDY TO SAVE THE DAY!!! "Hysterically funny! This is the perfect family movie." Not quite what the Disney folk had hoped for in their ads, but those words will do. And Erdy was happy to have his name. If you would like to drop Bryan a note and give him a wake-up call to what an inauthentic douchetool he is, check out his MySpace page and tell him how hysterically funny you think his career is.
PETER TRAVERS - Rolling Stone
2002 Whore Ranking - #1
2003 Whore Ranking - #1 (Earning himself the inaugural Peter Travers Whore of the Year Award)
2004 – 61 Quotes
2005 – 65 Quotes
2006 – 69 Quotes
2007 – 74 Quotes
Travers has long been the Rolling Stone film critic, but wasn’t always a shill. For a long time he was a respected writer with a strong point of view, but over the last few years it’s become more and more apparent that he’s just out to get Rolling Stone some free publicity.
What others have said about him:
"Does Peter Travers win the flat-footed medal for all eternity? Has he ever written a negative review, or even a mildly critic one? Have you ever seen an ad for the worst movie ever? It’ll have a rave from ROLLING STONE, dollars to donuts. I just assume if he likes it and the rest of the quotes are from some AM radio guy in Tulsa, that the movie sucks." – Post-Production Polly, Hollywood Elsewhere 2/4/03, Movie Poop Shoot.
"Peter Travers is a wash as a critic now, and probably for all time. Any time his name is within 4 font-size points of the film title, blink and move on." – Los Angeles-based indie filmmaker
The one person in all of movie reviewdom that drives me aboslutely batty is Peter Travers from Rolling Stone. - The Daily Ping
Amy Adams deserves better than to be sold with the words of Ted Baehr, don't you think?
Movie Title: Enchanted
Released by: Disney
Tomatometer: A solid 90+%
Respected Critics say: "Amy Adams is every Disney princess in one ebullient package." - Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
Definite Quotewhore Sightings: (9)
"****" - Bill Diehl
"A must-see!" – Jim Ferguson
"Outstanding!" – Mark S. Allen
"Delightful." – Ted Baehr
"Hilarious and lots of fun for everyone." – Pete Hammond
"Amy Adams is the wish your heart makes…she’s wicked good." – Peter Travers
"A wonderful film for the holidays!" – Greg Russell
"An uplifting and magical movie!" – Mose Persico
"A very funny comedy that has something for everyone!" – Scott Mantz
So let’s play a game.
Let’s say you work in the marketing department of Walt Disney Studios. You’ve got a big holiday movie opening, the buzz is strong, and your lead actress is actually garnering consideration for a Best Actress nomination. Nice!
But now you have to put together your print ads for the film, and of course you want some nice big fluffy blurbs from respected critics to go with your big colorful art. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? I mean, everyone loves the film, the big name critics are falling over themselves to give you mad props, and you’re looking at a 90%+ approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
So what do you do? Oh, you use blurbs from the biggest quotewhore douchebags in the business, that’s what.
Jim Ferguson? Peter Travers? Pete Hammond? Mark S. Allen? Mose "even the Quebecois hate my guts" Persico?
Look, I liked Enchanted too. It’s a great flick, and none of the whores are wrong about it, but why on earth would you use a quote from Pete Hammond unless you absolutely had no other option? Why would you feel like Mose bloody Persico’s opinion would hold weight with Joe and Jane Sixpack when he’s not seen outside of Montreal? Why, if the movie you’re releasing is actually good, would you go to the Jim Ferguson well o’critical prostitution?
Of course, by the Saturday, most of those names had been replaced with others, such as Kenneth Turan, Leah Rozen, Claudia Puig and Manohla Dargis, but one day later, and the ad has switched right back to the douchebags!
Allow me to again do your jobs for you, Disney Marketeers, and come up with five fresh quotes that would be perfectly appropriate and far more enticing to the regular moviegoing Joe, if you only bothered cracking your Rolodex past the ‘Escorts’ page.
- "As a way to pass a couple hours in sheer movie-movie bliss, you can’t go wrong." - MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Filosopher
- "Disney’s gloriously tongue-in-cheek parody of its own princess genre is notable for how it’s G-rated heroine makes us realize how far a bit of innocence and optimism can uplift our outlook in today’s untrusting world." - Laura Clifford, Reeling Reviews
- "It’s Amy Adams who lends the role a heart bigger than the frame can contain. I defy anyone to watch this movie and not fall hopelessly in love with this performance." - Brian Orndorf, eFilmCritic.com
- "Adams’ performance is the kind that deserves an Academy Award nomination yet seldom gets one." - Jeffrey Westhoff, Northwest Herald
There; now, what’s wrong with those?
Yeah, so we chose one guy from our own website and two from my hometown of Chicago, so sue me. But in my defense, I looked at the quote first and the name second… just like the studio wants you to.
Anyways, Enchanted, great movie though it is, will now forever more be found in the Movie Marketing Hall of Shame. Well done, Disney.