The movies of the past couple of weeks have not exactly been lighting up the critics. The Tooth Fairy, When In Rome and Legion have come within the similar crosshairs with scores of 15%, 17% and 18%, respectively, over at Rotten Tomatoes. Those are the critics though. Not the junketeers, who as usual have gone rogue as the champions of said movies.
The Tooth Fairy
"Dwayne Johnson is the champ of family movies! - Greg Russell, The Movie Show Plus, WNYB-TV/Detroit
"A great family comedy! - Eli Ferradas, WSVN-TV/Miami
"Thrilling!" - Shawn Edwards
When In Rome
"Wild and fun! - Jim Ferguson
"Flat-out hilarious! You'll fall in love with When In Rome!" - Bryan Erdy
Pretty impressive of Bollini and Edwards to get quoted opening weekend on Legion considering the film was withheld from screening for critics. Especially since that's usually Earl Dittman's territory. We move on, though, to this weekend's box office success story (Dear John) and box office disappointment (From Paris With Love). On the positive side, they doubled up the critical favor on The Tooth Fairy and When In Rome grabbing 30% and 34% of non-negative reviews.
From Paris With Love
"Explosive, gripping, and tons of fun! The first great action film of the year!" - Dan Deevy, thecinemasource.com
"Travolta steals the movie. He's a one man wrecking crew." - Jeffrey Lyons, KNBC/Lyons Den Radio
"Seatbelt up for one hell of a ride! The coolest Travolta since Pulp Fiction!" - Shelli Sonstein, Q104.3 Radio NYC
As first questioned on the Twitter last week, how is it possible for the lead actor to steal a movie? We have certainly seen some overpowering work in our time. A lead actor or actress has been known to overshadow everyone else's work (good or otherwise) or simply standing out in a film perhaps not worthy of the performance they are delivering. Typically we refer to these stars as owning the picture, not stealing it. The film's guests - the supporting players - are the ones who have the opportunity to steal the film. Your Val Kilmer in Tombstone or Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross swoop in and leave such an impression that it is the first thing you talk about on your way out. Did anyone but Jeffrey Lyons leave From Paris With Love thinking "boy, that John Travolta came out of nowhere and stole that film from Jonathan Rhys-Meyers?" Was anyone going in to see a Jonathan Rhys-Meyers flick?
Equally suspect in its cliched junket-like reaction to quote-giving is Shelli Sonstein's assertion that this is "the coolest Travolta since Pulp Fiction!" With an exclamation point, mind you. Certainly it has been some time since we moviegoers have thought Travolta was cool. And we were actually more likely not to see a Rhys-Meyers or a Travolta film as we were one from the director of last year's throat-punchin' classic, Taken. But Sonstein bypassed consideration of 1997's Face/Off and 1995's Get Shorty, two films definitely worthy as examples of Travolta cool, to go back to his 1994 comeback vehicle. Could it have been because there was a "royale with cheese" joke in From Paris With Love and it was just easier for Sonstein to remember the film from which it came?
This is a common re-occurrence from the less-than-memorable junket crowd that gets their sneak peek before most of the critics who write more than blurbs for a living. I will never forget Fierce Creatures being referred to as the funniest film since A Fish Called Wanda by one blurby. So when we come to this weekend's Avatar-toppler, Dear John, you have Greg Russell calling it "A true-blue American love story" and Earl Dittman giving the "instant date-night classic" four stars. But we also have the following said about the film based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks.
"Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried are the best romantic couple since The Notebook." - Lisa Fuller-Magee / KTVK-TV Phoenix
"The most overwhelmingly romantic movie since The Notebook." - Mark S. Allen
Did The Notebook really set the bar for romantic weepies so high that no other film can be referenced in its wake. Or is it just because some of these junket hounds can barely remember anything past their last trip to the craft service table provided by the studios? Do you remember what one of them called last year's The Time Traveler's Wife, a film that just happened to feature one Rachel McAdams?
"The most romantic film since The Notebook."
You know who said it? Shelli Sonstein. Did you know she was also singing the praises of the last Nicholas Sparks adaptation, Nights in Rodanthe? Any takers on what she called it?
"The Notebook of 2008."
Was that film so powerful that it actually gave viewers Alzheimer's? Will everyone forget about Dear John just a week later when a film called Valentine's Day actually opens on Valentine's Day weekend? Some reviewers are already well out in front.
"Sexy." - Jeff Craig
"Valentine's Day is full of laughs, love and surprises." - George Pennacchio, KABC-TV
"You'll fall in love with Valentine's Day." - Tony Toscano
Wait a second, Tony. Bryan Erdy already told me I would fall in love with When In Rome. I only have so much commitment that can go around this Hallmark holiday. Jeanne Wolf's three-adjective praise ("Hilarious. Irresistible. Sensational.") in the television ads became "Hilarious, charming and irresistible" in the newspaper.
"The perfect date movie." - Brandi Williams, TV Guide Network
"The perfect date movie." - Toni Gonzalez, NBC-TV
Whoa, whoa, one at a time. Whom do I believe? Forget it, I'll just catch up on seeing Edge of Darkness.
"Mel is back and doesn't miss a beat." - Jim Ferguson
"Mel Gibson is back with a vengeance." - Edward Douglas
"Mel Gibson returns with a vengeance!" - Scott Mantz
Oh come on guys. Do you all share the same brain?
"It will keep you on the edge of your seat." - Scott Mantz
"Edge of Darkness will keep you on the edge of your seat." - Carrie Keagan
"Edge of Darkness will keep you on the edge of your seat." - Pete Hammond
Oh for God's sake. Really? Edge of Darkness? Edge of your seat? At least it wasn't called The Notebook of Darkness. With these folks at the forefront of the studio trying to convince us to see their movie we should just forget the whole thing and stay home. At least until The Last Song comes out.