Critics or reviewers blunders or examples of stupidity

Sometimes I’ll read some review in the paper and want to scream—either because the reviewer is clueless, or just plain wrong. I’m sure such occurrences are not rare!

I’ll always remember, years ago in an issue of LA WEEKLY (free L.A. paper) there was a short review for the mid-1970s Marlon Brando/Jack Nicholson film “The Missouri Breaks”. The reviewer mentioned the interesting and fine score by guitarist John Williams. (There’s also a Classical guitarist named John Williams, not to be confused with “Star Wars” composer John Williams.) The reviewer went on to say how nice the score was (it was a rather jazzy and funky score with lots of guitar). Then the reviewer went on to say that guitarist Williams had written superior score, and this composer should not be confused with that wretched, schmaltzy “Star Wars” composer of the same name, who couldn’t do anything so good. (Or something to that effect!)

But the thing was, the reviewer got it wrong. IT WAS THE SAME JOHN WILLIAMS! Before he became big in “Star Wars”, Williams had many styles. One of them was a funky jazz-like style. (He still occasionally trots it out, not that I’ve kept up with everything he’s composed.) I’ve never known of the Classical Guitarist John Williams to compose film music.

I found this to be just too delicious. This reviewer was trying to take a stab at “Star Wars” John Williams, but ended up looking like an ignorant, snobby idiot.

I never did see a correction to that error in a later edition of LA WEEKLY. I’, sure everyone at the paper just wanted to forget all about it. (And I have no doubt that some film geeks wrote in about it.)

So—anyone else have any tales of reviewers or critics sticking their foot in their mouth?

I read a review of Denis Leary’s movie "Monument Ave’ (aka Snitch, according to the IMDB) which mentioned several times that the film was set in South Boston. Um, no, it’s set in Charlestown. Not all Irish American gang members in the Boston area live in Southie. Gave me a bit of a chuckle.

The only thing I can figure is the reviewer was confusing “Monument Ave” with “Southie,” which was in theatres around the same time around here.

In The Making of King Kong, Goldner and Turner cite a lot of reviewers and film critics who stumbled over themselves getting the facts wrtong about the great Ape film. One claimed that it owed its erotic attraction to being co-written by a stripper (apparently confusing the producer’s wife Ruth Rose with Ruth la Rose, or maybe even Gypsy Rose Lee).

One of my pet peeves is when reviewers flunk a movie for entirely the wrong reasons – generally because it isn’t what they were expecting. I recall reviewers who dinged the Arnold Schwartzenegger opus Predator because they were apparently expecting a more realistic film about Central America. (Duh. A Schwartzenegger film? And didn’t they watch the previews?). Several reviewers seemed to hate the David Lynch film The Elephant Man because they were apparently expecting it to be based on the Bernard Pomerance play of the same name. (The two works were unrelated, aside from being based on exactly the same source material.) Some even complained that they gave John Hurt makeup to resemble the deformed Joseph Merrick (since no makeup was used in the stage play). These people need to learn what cinema is about.

Everytime a reviewer mentions Andrew Lloyd Webber being the composer of ** Chess **, or ** Les Miserables **, I cringe.

Almost everything ever said by Richard Roeper sounds like a blunder or an example of stupidity. He should just go ahead and trademark “I don’t care about that, Roger.” Since he say it to Ebert so many times, when Ebert points out some point in a film that Roeper misunderstood or didn’t like.

Our local newspaper reviewer tore apart The Mummy when it was first released becaue it bore no resemblance to the 1932 version with Boris Karloff. Most of his negative reviews are very puffball, but he was vicious on this one. He loves the old Universal Horror movies, and recycles old columns gushing about them (and other favorite topics) every chance he can get. When it was released on DVD, he did a complete flip-flop. He loved it as a tribute to the old Saturday matinee serials from the 1940s, it was a fun and entertaining example of esacapist film entertainment. Nothing in the second review mentioned how much he hated it the first time. So he didn’t do any re-examination of the film, he just ignored the fact that the film didn’t match his preconceived notions of what it was going to be about. I guess he somehow missed the ample previews of the film before its release.

I saw a review for Ron Howard’s “Parenthood” which mentioned Steve Martin doing a funny dance when his son hit a home run. Nope, the son made a big catch. The trailer for the film conflated the dance with a home run shot (but not SM’s son).

Save time, see just the trailer and then write the review.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, who is usually a pretty good reviewer, complained in his review of the E.T. anniversary re-release this year about the “penis breath” line being taken out. Except that it wasn’t. Shame on you, Peter, for writing your reviews from the press kit and whatever you read on “Ain’t It Cool News.”

It’s been 20 years, but I still haven’t forgiven Stephen Holden of the NY times for this:

Preface: look, I KNOW that every time a fan disagrees with a critic, the fan is likely to dash off an angry letter saying “You must not have been at the same show I was,” or “You mustn’t have watched the same movie I watched,” and so on. But my complaint isn’t like that.

Back around 1983 or 1984, I rented a concert video called “Asia in Asia.” That is, the prog-rock band Asia had recorded one of its concerts in Japan.

Now, ordinarily, I ignore newspaper reviews of prog-rock bands I like, because it goes without saying that critics are going to hate them. But not long after seeing that video, I read a review in the New York Times by Stephen Holden. As I expected, Holden gave it a negative review, which is fine (tastes vary, to each his own, First Amendment and all that)… but toward the end of the review I noticed two things: first, Holden alluded to Asia vocalist John Wetton, and then to the alleged “high point” of the concert, in which Asia performed their hit “Don’t Cry.”

Two little problems: John Wetton had just been ousted from the band and replaced by Greg Lake! Wetton wasn’t even IN the band! Second, Asia DIDN’T perform “Don’t Cry” during this particular show!

In short, there is ZERO chance that Holden even bothered to watch the video he reviewed.

Now, as I’ve said before, I rarely have even the slightest respect for critics of any kind (music, theater, book, film, restaurant, whatever), but I don’t envy them either. I can only imagine the sheer volume of bad movies I’d have to see, the bad restaurants I’d have to eat at, the lousy records I’d have to listen to, if I were a critic. Still, it’s a critic’s job to listen to records before he reviews them, to read books before he critiques them, to eat at a restaurant before he gives it 1 to 4 stars. If that’s too dificult or too time-consuming, he has no business being a critic. Critics have every right to trash my favorite ELP albums, but first, they have a duty to torture themselves by LISTENING to them. Only THEN are they entitled to write blistering reviews.

Stephen Holden is a lazy fraud. He has disqualified himself from being a critic, in my view. But not surprisingly, the NY Times didn’t fire him, didn’t reprimand him, and has promoted him steadily over the years!

Just remember this before you pay ANY attention to ANYTHING he says: his reviews are usually based on his own likes, dislikes, preconceptions and preferences. He’s PROVEN that he often doesn’t watch or pay attention to the performances he critiques.

I was going to say Roeper too. This week on the show they were reviewing a movie in which there happened to be a lot of sex toys. Ebert said they weren’t believeable in the context of the film and Roeper accused him of disliking the movie because he was “shocked” by it. Ebert got this “WTF?!?!” look on his face and said: “Shocked by it? I’ve written an X-rated movie; how many X-rated movies have YOU written?”

Roeper: “b-b-but, well…well none YET.”


Ebert must feel like he’s babysitting some days.

Though, to his credit, Roeper said Chris Kattan is not funny, nor will he ever be.


Can’t remember the name of the book or the critic but an Irish Times reviewer made some snotty condescending comment about an American author who’d mistakenly placed Kerry next to Sligo in the book (about Irish-American gangsters). Fair enough criticism, but the reviewer went on to describe the bulk of the book’s action as taking place in “the Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood of the Bronx”…

I can’t stand Richard Roeper. He always seems to dismiss everything he doesn’t like as “stupid” or “dumb” and seems annoyed that anyone would have a different opiniopn. Thank God they seem to have done away with his horrible “Parting Shot” segment where Richard would enlighten us on such endlessly fascinating topics as “Boy, those 555 numbers sure are dumb” and “Freddie Prince Jr. doesn’t make very good movies, does he?”

The example of this I’ve used for years:
Shortly after the original Star Trek series went off the air Leonard Nimoy was in Chicago playing the lead in “Sherlock Holmes”, a classic melodrama filled with secret passages, disguises, and all the trappings. The theatrical reviewer (for the Chicago Tribune IIRC), in additional to making the expected comments about “Mr. Spock” playing the “logical” Holmes, dismissed the play itself as too melodramatic.
I often wondered if he would also have referred to “Hamlet” as too Shakespearian or “West Side Story” as too musical.

A friend and I make a game out of spotting the error in Ebert’s reviews. Every single week, he can be counted on to make a lazy factual mistake.

This past weekend, for example, he makes a big deal out of the last line of dialogue in Reign of Fire, and speculates about its deeper meaning. Unfortunately, he gets the quote wrong: the final bit of dialogue is similar, but doesn’t include the specific thing he goes off about.

Every week. Every single week.

And how about this mistake from Ebert’s review of Road to Perdition (I’ll spoiler it since nobody will be expecting information about this movie in this thread):

[spoiler]"Tyler Hoechlin plays his son Michael Jr., a solemn-eyed 12-year-old. After his brother Peter asks “What does dad do for a job?” Michael Jr. decides to find out for himself. One night he hides in a car, goes along for the ride, and sees a man killed. Not by his father, but what difference does it make? "

Except Michael sees three men killed, two by his father. The one he could see most clearly was the third guy killed by Rooney.

And this one:

“Called a murderer, Rooney says…”

Rooney was not called a murderer, his son was.

Last year the London Evening Standard ran a review of a West End play, ‘The Life and Death of Joe Egg’. The reviewer had managed to pick up on the fact that it’s about a couple and their handicapped child. Unfortunately, the title threw him and he wrote the entire review as if the child is male. In the play, ‘Joe Egg’ is the nickname the couple give to their daughter.

I read this, and I thought - why am I paying for this paper in order to read reviews when I know more about the play than the guy reviewing it? And why are they paying someone who can’t even get a simple son/daughter fact right?

You guys haven’t seen bad movie reviewing until you’ve read any review by Mick LaSalle, the bizarro world critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. I’d say 80% of the time, you can count on the exact opposite being true of every movie he reviews. You can read them on (I don’t think they’re archived, however).

Here’s a sampling, from his review of J. Lo’s awful revenge movie Enough:

Oh yeah - a thriller of significance, alright. Significantly craptacular.

Without seeing the movie (Never Again), I suspect Roger was being a bit prudish. But I would have a hard time arguing with him, because he makes an excellent point. And that was the funniest quip I’ve heard on TV in a long time (since I was thinking the same thing during his entire review).

I noticed a goof in his “Great Movies” review of This Is Spinal Tap. (Pardon me if I’ve posted this before.)

Uh, no, those were cold sores. They got herpes from a groupie, which is made more explicit in a deleted scene on the DVD.

Wow! AMAZING! I didn’t know this many reviewers were so lazy and/or useless! What a mind-blower.

I can’t remember the name of the book, but it was about Sci Fi and written by some British guy. He was discussing Star Wars, and referred to R2D2 and C3PO as “Artoodeetoo” and “Seethreepio.” It took me an awfully long time to figure out what he was talking about.

If this was not, in fact, a blunder, and those spellings are legitimately used in some cases, I’d like to know about it. I’ve been on the lookout, but only seen their names written the regular way.