The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Miramax's ad fudges critics' praise for 'Doubt'

January 5, 2009 |  6:04 pm

It's one thing for studios to populate their multimillion-dollar Oscar ad campaigns with junket press quote whores and critics who'll praise any movie that staggers into a theater, but judging from this Sunday's  full-page ad in the L.A Times and N.Y. Times for "Doubt," Miramax is really pushing the envelope when it comes to misleading advertising.

DoubtYou'd think that "Doubt," a well-written drama that's earned lots of strong reviews and is viewed as a potential best picture nominee, could survive just fine with blurbs from respectable critics. But instead of using a host of top scribes who've given the film a good review, Miramax's ad relies on blurbs from ABC-TV, Rolling Stone's Peter Travers (a critic who'd give a good review to a car crash) and the New York Post.

It's the New York Post blurb (that says "This is what movies used to be and should be. 'Doubt' is heart-stopping. A feast of great acting") that raised real hackles. The problem? As Post critic Lou Lumenick said in a blog post today, he did call the film "a feast of great acting," even though the ad fails to add his qualifier, which adds that "in the final analysis, it's a filmed stage play rather than a brilliant movie." The real problem is that he never said the movie was "heart-stopping" or "what movies used to be and should be." Those quotes came from--yikes!--Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams, who is many things, but not by any stretch of the imagination a film critic.

The quotes are simply attributed to the New York Post, not Lumenick personally. But it seems to be a new low in truth-in-advertising to lump the breathless gush from a gossip queen with praise from a real critic. Imagine how our Kenny Turan would feel if he read an L.A. Times blurb that actually was partially taken from his review and partially from the effusions of The Envelope's Tom O'Neil. It's one thing for studios to puff up cruddy comedies with exclamations from junketeers, but it's really embarrassing to see them use such tacky tactics with potential Oscar films. As Lumenick put it: "I've seen all sorts of shenanigans in ads over the years, but I've never had one of my blurbs enhanced with quotes from another writer. I'm not happy with Miramax or their PR agency, 42 West." He's right. Everyone involved, including "Doubt" producer Scott Rudin, who prides himself on being a class act, should be ashamed of themselves. They haven't done their movie any favors. 



Photo of Meryl Streep in "Doubt" by Brigitte Lacombe/Andrew Schwartz/Miramax