A Good Rule of Thumb


Can a theatrical film that has been widely panned by the critics achieve big earnings at the box office? Apparently so,if you look at this weekend’s box office for the Adam Sandler remake of the 1974 film “The Longest Yard.” It took in $26 million in its second weekend in release. (I always liked the first version, especially the dastardly and recently deceased Eddie Albert as the prison warden.) Anyway, I digress.

I took interest in the item in today’s Times on influential critic Roger Ebert’s second thoughts on his “thumb up” to this film. As a film publicist early in my career, one of my chores was to obtain advance critical quotes and cull the most flowery language from them for use in paid “quote ads.” Had Ebert’s actual quote been used, it would jibe with the direction in which his thumb was pointed.

A good rule of thumb for separating fact from fluff is to see who is being quoted in the quote ads. If you see an “NBC” or “ABC” critic being quoted, and it’s not Shalit or Siegal, then be wary. It’s likely a local network affiliate (from which there are hundreds to choose). Also, if you’ve never heard of the publication touting the movie in the ad, think twice before running to the theatre. Oh how I miss Pauline Kael.