Letter to the Editor

The critics all agree: This is the editorial of the year!

Such hyperbolic blurbs may seem out of place on this page but they are the lifeblood of movie marketing — a fact of life under review by the Federal Trade Commission. Whatever noble intentions lie behind this probe are outweighed by the futility of trying to regulate the blurbmeisters.

The FTC is obligated to review its truth-in-advertising statutes every decade or so. Movie ads fall under testimonials. Bound to surface during the commission’s inquiry is the revelation that several studios were using fraudulent quotes from the likes of the fictitious David Manning. The result could be tighter restrictions on how blurbs are used — context is crucial, the FTC cautions.

Let’s face facts. The vast pool of critics from which studios draw is impossible to regulate. Who will decide whether a critic was quoted accurately or not? Who will ensure that a full-throated TV announcer doesn’t overstate the praise?

Given the truly obscure sources of some of the blurbs, who is going to take the time to track them down and see whether they truly exist? And shouldn’t the government have something better to do?

The FTC is on an arcane mission. As with many consumer regulatory matters, caveat emptor. Or, in blurb-speak, “Let the Oscar buzz begin … and let the buyer beware!”

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