ABOUT 18 MONTHS AGO, SOME STUDIO MARKETERS — why embarrass the studio further by naming it? — invented a critic, Dave Manning, and used “his” quotes in ads for its movies.

It was odd — not just because the execs felt there was a serious shortage of critics to tap into … or because of their arrogance in thinking they could create a fictitious person and never get caught.

No, it’s because Manning was in “existence” for nine months before anyone discovered the hoax. Doesn’t anybody read these critics’ quotes?

Which brings us to the annual picks of kicky crix blurbs. Here are our favorites that were printed, as they say, in ads in major metropolitan newspapers. It’s reassuring to know that these critics are real. At least we assume they’re real.

MOVIES ARE BETTER THAN EVER

Mark S. Allen, UPN-TV, “Rat Race” — “Quite possibly the funniest movie ever!”

Goosehead.com, “Extreme Days” — “The best extreme sports movie ever!”

Maria Salas, Gems-TV, “Head Over Heels” — “The best Freddie Prinze Jr. movie since ‘She’s All That’!”

BEATING AT LEAST TWO OTHER MOVIES

Leonard Maltin, NetFlix.com “The Pledge” — “The first exceptional film of 2001.” (Jan. 19)

BETTER THAN ‘THE PLEDGE’?

Curtis Waller, MTV Radio, “The Wedding Planner” — “The best date movie of the year!” (Jan. 26)

WHY SOME PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO GO TO MOVIES THESE DAYS

Mike Sargent, WBAI, “Swordfish” — “If it were any hotter you’d burst into flames.”

Mike Cidoni, Ackerley Group Television, “Rat Race” — “Spleen-burstingly funny!”

John Patterson, L.A. Weekly, “Kiss of the Dragon” — “Will have you standing on your seat cheering like a Viking.”

REALLY? IT MADE ME WANT TO STAND ON MY SEAT AND CHEER LIKE A VIKING

Holly McClure, Syndicated Movie Critic, “The Amati Girls” — “Bravo!!! It made me laugh, cry and want to call my family!”

BUT YOU STILL MAY NOT WANT TO CALL YOUR FAMILY

Shawn Edwards, Fox TV, “Sweet November” — “You’ll have a renewed passion for life.”

THE CLOUDED CRYSTAL BALL

Maria Salas, Gems-TV, “Enemy at the Gates” — “It was wonderful and it’s definitely going to be a cinematographic classic! — Jude Law gives an Oscar-caliber performance.”

Paul Clinton, CNN Radio Network, “The Affair of the Necklace” — “Hilary Swank delivers an Academy-worthy performance.”

Bill Diehl, ABC Radio Networks, “The Majestic” — “Carrey is fabulous — an Oscar-caliber performance.”

MINORITY OPINIONS

Mark S. Allen, KMAX-TV, “Freddy Got Fingered” — “Inspired insanity! Manic-impressive!”

Shawn Edwards, Fox TV, “The Animal” — “The comedy hit of the summer!”

Shawn Edwards, WDAF-TV, “Black Knight” — “The surprise comedy of the year!”

Shawn Edwards, Fox-TV, — ” ‘Hardball’ is the most enjoyable movie of the year!”

MOVIES ARE #$&@ING GREAT!

Mark S. Allen, UPN-TV, “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” — “#@!#-ing hysterical!”

Tim Sherno, UPN-TV, “Saving Silverman” — “You’ll laugh your @#$ off!”

MR. ROEPER, WOULD YOU GO TO THE BLACKBOARD AND DIAGRAM THAT SENTENCE FOR US?

Richard Roeper, “Ebert & Roeper,” “American Pie 2″ — “I laughed out loud at least a dozen times! Movies like ‘Animal House’ and ‘Caddyshack,’ they endure all this time and I think the ‘American Pie’ franchise will, because it’s hard to do, and when it’s done well you appreciate it!”

I WATCHED THE MOVIE, TOO, BUT I KEPT THINKING OF YOUR ‘AMERICAN PIE 2′ REVIEW

Richard Roeper, “Ebert & Roeper,” “K-PAX” — “For the two hours I watched this movie, I wasn’t thinking about anything else!”

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