There is a smidge of a point in there. Since the very worst of these junket folks and BFCA members are usually the only ones to be found to support films like Tooth Fairy and The Bounty Hunter, the math is on the wall. Only it's not just yours truly in disagreement but more than 80% of the critical community. If this watch list was solely about matters of judgment I might have chosen to single out people who were overly giddy about last year's Star Trek or this week's Kick-Ass. What the junket supporters never seem to understand is that it is not always what you say, but how you say it and the reputation you have earned in saying it.
Which brings us to this past week's release of Fox's Date Night, a pretty funny film that I enjoyed along with currently 67% of the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. When the early ads were released last week, Fox led off with:
"Smart and wildly funny." - Jeanne Wolf
"Steve Carell and Tina Fey are a match made in comedy heaven. They're perfect." - Ben Lyons
The majority of critics had not yet seen Date Night and if ever there was a red flag of a recommendation it was Ben Lyons. As if the studios were practically mocking the demise of At the Movies (seven months after Lyons was let go from his one-year stint), since mid-March Lyons has been quoted more often than Michael Phillips and nearly as much as A.O. Scott. Not to mention getting in more words edgewise in the ads than just "see it." Then again, this is not to disagree with him. If a comedy heaven indeed existed I would file a protest if Carell and Fey were not some part of it. Miss Wolf, on the flip side, has not exactly been on the side of most people with her quotable praise this year for Extraordinary Measures (29%) and Valentine's Day (16%). The word "wild" is also one of those that is better associated with toads.
Wild and fun! (When In Rome) - Jim Ferguson
An intense and wild ride! (Legion) - Chris Bollini
A wildly funny ride. (The Men Who Stare At Goats) - Jeanne Wolf
Please don't just take my word for it, though, nor the collective body at Rotten Tomatoes. Read Jeanne Wolf's reviews for yourself. Oh wait, she doesn't really write reviews. Just interviews that appear to have no questions. So all you have to go on are her quotes. In 2009 that included praise for He's Just Not That Into You, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, My Sister's Keeper, Shorts, Law-Abiding Citizen, The Men Who Stare At Goats, The Blind Side and Brothers. Don't look at me. I'm not telling you which of those I liked or disliked. Make your own decision on whether or not to trust Miss Wolf.
On Friday, Fox doubled up on the old stand-bys adding quotes by Jeffrey Lyons, Kelli Gillespie and for good measure, part of a rave from Variety since they have carte blanche to ignore embargoes. Gillespie called the film "one giant comedy." All 87 minutes of it. Last year her quote output extended not just to Fox's Bride Wars ("Grab all your girlfriends and go see this movie! Hilarious and heartwarming") but also to:
"Intense... will blow you away." (Terminator: Salvation)
"If you loved School of Rock, you'll love Bandslam. Entertaining and fun, plus full of great music." (Bandslam)
"Full of humor and heart!" (Old Dogs)
Lyons Sr. was a big fan of Shawn Levy's last effort for Fox, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian which he called "A delight. One of the best family films of the year...as engaging as the original, and with one of the funniest screenplays of the year..." He found Date Night to be "a witty, fast-paced, intelligent comedy." Fair enough. How do you feel about his idea of "witty" over the years though?
"One of the wittiest, fast-paced animated films in years!" (Teacher's Pet)
"A wonderfully funny surprise...Witty, inventive, original." (Hoodwinked)
"Sure to be this summer's family delight! It's warm, brilliantly animated, with a witty script sure to have children and especially parents in stitches." (Madagascar)
"Delightful and surprisingly poignant. It's witty and yes guys, you'll love it too!" (Sex and the City)
"Humorous, witty and sophisticated." (Imagine Me & You)
"Witty, sly, devilishly-funny, with bravura performances!" (Keeping Mum)
"Intelligent and witty. Joe Pantoliano's performance is so convincing, you'd think he wrote and directed it as well." (Second Best)
"A witty, well-directed and acted story about a fascinating character. Luke Wilson should be proud!" (The Wendell Baker Story)
"It's funny, it's witty...This is headed to the best picture of the year list! Scarlett Johansson is one of the great actresses of her generation. Woody Allen's finest film in years." (Scoop)
Again, just the messenger. My only bit of commentary is that it was infinitely amusing to see Jeffrey and Ben Lyons side by side in the ad with Ben's quote reading "a match made in comedy heaven." Can we, at least, all agree on that? Nearly as amusing, though, is the studio's realization that they may not have needed these impotent quotables after all. Saturday's ads dumped all of the above to make room for the following:
"This is the rare comedy that is superbly paced, cleverly plotted and hilarious from start to finish. Comic gold!" - Claudia Puig
"Superbly absurd. Watching these two intensely likeable comedians work together...a special pleasure." - Joe Morgenstern
"Funny." - Roger Ebert
"Excellent entertainment. A 21st century Nick and Nora Charles." - Lisa Schwarzbaum
"Showcases a divine comedy coupling: A brilliantly matched Fey and Carell. The ultimate double date." - Sara Vilkomerson, People
OK, so USA Today's Claudia Puig uses about five quote keywords in one sentence and other than Carell & Fey playing a married couple who have too much to drink one night, the comparisons to The Thin Man pretty much end there. Does Sara Vilkomerson even understand what a double date is, cause I'm quite sure it's not just two people out on one date. But at least it's a start, using critics who write instead of signing their name to the nearest ad man's quote. Maybe next time Fox can show a little faith in this type of critic. Start there for a change and see what we have to say first. You can always fall back on the Wolf in sheep's clothing.