Every weekend, the same cliches are emblazoned inside the nation's newspapers in bold, capped letters: "THE BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR!" "A ROLLERCOASTER RIDE!" "ACTION-PACKED!" or that spunky newcomer, "THIS MOVIE ROCKS!" No one really believes these declarations of stupendousnessnot the movie-studio publicists who place the ads, not the moviegoers who scan them before finding the showtimes, and probably not even the "film reviewers" who supposedly wrote them. Last year, Sony Pictures got a lot of embarrassing press and a false-advertising lawsuit for fabricating its own ebullient blurb-monger, "David Manning." But you've got to wonder why they even bothered when there are so many real shills out there willing to say anything about any movie just to see their names in print. In this crowded field of adulators, there are five who excel in the mindless glorification of bad movies. Their names appear over and over in ads for movies so dreadful that publicists couldn't find a single "real" critic to say anything nice. In selecting The Bottom 5, quotes were taken from ads placed in the New York Times for only the most unrelentingly mediocre movies. Points were awarded for: use of patently false hyperbole, number of exclamation points, obscurity of media outlet, and weakness of cliches. Here, then, are the most tasteless critics in America:
Mark S. Allen, UPN TV Sacramento, on Rat Race: "Quite possibly the funniest movie ever!"
Jeff Craig, Sixty Second Preview, on Swordfish: "One of the most breathlessly entertaining releases of the summer. You'll be pinned to your seat by Swordfish."
Anna Gabriel, Nylon Magazine, on Slackers: "All in all this movie rocks!"
Richard Reid, Northwest Cable News, on Hart's War: "Taut and riveting. Hart's War soars with human spirit."
Tim Wassberg, Inside Reel, on The Animal: "Uproariously funny, a laugh riot!"
SANDIE NEWTON, CBS TV
Sandie Newton's critical vision often focuses on the actors and their performances rather than the entire movie, as so many other ad-quote artists do. Through her thoughtful analyses of the stunning work by today's hottest celebs, she is able to reveal the very essence of each film. Dragonfly: "Kevin Costner delivers a very passionate, heartfelt performance! It's one of his best!" Tomb Raider: "Angelina Jolie delivers! She was born to play Lara Croft! She's the ultimate superhero." Crossroads: "Britney lights up the screen. A very confident and charismatic debut for Britney Spears." The stars can do no wrong in the Sandie Newton universe. It is fortunate for us that her insights have been recorded for posterity in the pervasive medium of movie ads.
SHAWN EDWARDS, FOX TV (WDAF-TV, Kansas City)
Shawn Edwards is possibly the most enthusiastic man in the entire world. Everything is great! Destined to be a hit! Wow! No, Mr. Edwards does not hold back his joy when it comes to reviewing the amazing efforts of Hollywood's dream factory. He is a man with a lot of love to share. The Animal is "The comedy hit of the summer!" In Chris Rock's Down to Earth, "The funniest man in America will have you laughing until it hurts!" Tomb Raider is "The most stylish and entertaining action adventure movie in years!" Would you believe that Sweet November is "A movie that sizzles with charm. You'll have a renewed passion for life." Or that "Danny DeVito is terrific!" in What's the Worst That Could Happen? Ah, but it is Britney Spears who truly captured Edwards' heart, as he reveals in this impassioned, nearly novel-length tribute to the plastic wonder: "Crossroads is a perfect teen dream. It has everything that makes a movie totally cool: laughs, adventure, spirit, hot music, drama and of course BRITNEY! Britney rocks! She is like a comet. A talent of her magnitude only comes around once in a lifetime and you can't take your eyes off her when she is on screen in this totally cool and delightfully hip movie." Shawn, get a room.
DAVID SHEEHAN, KCBS TV
David Sheehan has apparently been in the movie reviewing/celebrity watching business since the '70s, plying his trade at a Los Angeles CBS affiliate. In 1980, he even issued his own videotape entitled David Sheehan Interviews the Stars. Over the years, he has proffered many a blurb. His most recent works include this concise summation of What's the Worst That Could Happen?: "The laughs are big." Of course, that train wreck of a movie only starred Danny DeVito and Martin Lawrence. When it comes to real star power like Kevin Costner's, he is startlingly effusiveDragonfly is "A great movie! Totally absorbing! The most rewarding movie of the year!" But Sheehan made "The Bottom 5" for this absolute classic in the annals of overstatementhis fearless declaration of love for Bicentennial Man: "The most beautiful movie of the millennium." Goodness! Of course, there were only about a hundred years' worth of movies in that particular millennium, but this only shows just how much Sheehan was moved by Robin Williams' robot-with-a-heart opus.
JEFFREY LYONS, WNBC TV
Probably the best known of our The Bottom 5 critics, Jeffrey Lyons has had an accomplished career. According to his online bio, Lyons studied acting with Lee Strasberg and attended the Julliard School of Music. He was co-host of the post-Siskel & Ebert PBS series Sneak Previews from 1982 to 1996. And for the last six years, he's been with New York City's Channel 4. This would make him an illustrious personage among the critics gathered here. Thus, one can only wonder why he feels compelled to make such breathtakingly wrong pronouncements as "Dragonfly is intriguing! Stunning!" Or that The Majestic is "The best movie of the year!" Or that The Shipping News is "Provocative and full of surprises!" Or that Evolution is "Bizarre, outrageous, and hilarious, with superb special effects." But it is his summation of What's the Worst That Could Happen? that inspires concern for his soul: "You'll be rolling in the aisles. The worst that could happen is missing this film." Jeffrey, believe us when we say that the worst has happened. All too often.
MIKE SARGENT, WBAI RADIO
Mike Sargent is a master of misplaced hyperbole. He seems to take great pleasure in crafting the most insanely ludicrous assertions, such as this one for the Anne Rice flop Queen of the Damned: "Erotic, scary, gothic and exciting. Move over Dracula the Queen has arrived!" Yes, the immortal dark prince of classic gothic literature has been vanquished by a pop star in a metal bra. But it is with Sargent's review of Swordfish that he truly flexes his muscles with a critic's hat-trick: "The French Connection meets The Matrix. A high impact, high energy, high tech thriller that takes no prisoners. If it were any hotter you'd burst into flames." In one fell swoop of blurbage, Sargent manages to employ a ridiculous comparison to vastly superior films, a tired cliché, and an entirely unbelievable claim. Bravo!
March 28, 2002
Got an idea for a Bottom 5 topic? Care to write one yourself? Drop us a line!