Critics: Say what's good, what's bad

The Gripe

December 21, 2007|By Anne Tallent | Anne Tallent,Sun reporter

"The best action picture in decades!" The Bourne Ultimatum box exclaimed.

Wow! Really? I mean, I knew it was supposed to be good. ... Then I peered at the flea-sized name beneath the blurb.

"Pete Hammond, Maxim."


That doesn't mean it's a bad movie. It just means that the praise is probably way, way overrated.

You see, Hammond, like Rolling Stone's Peter Travers, NBC's Jeffrey Lyons and CNN's Larry King, is, in industry parlance, a "soft touch." They appear to like everything - a lot. And film publicists like them - a lot - because their names are attached to large, national media.

A story last month about push-over critics in The Daily Herald of suburban Chicago pointed to Hammond's praise for such dreck as Premonition and Mr. Brooks. Hammond even won a top award in 2006 for praise-happy prose from the Web's Criticwatch, though he has slipped to a tie for No. 10 this year.

Yes, critics love their art form. And a critic probably helps his employer's "brand" when it's emblazoned on newspaper ads and DVD boxes.

But one integral part of the critic's job is telling good from bad - helping me decide where to spend my time and money and how not to waste either of them. If everything is good, a critic's not doing his job. And he's not doing me - the reader, the movie viewer - any favors.

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