Quotewhores play role in kudos war

Blurbmeisters give boost to studios

When “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” opened last week, its print advertisement featured one blurb from Sixty Second Preview’s Jeff Craig calling it “the perfect holiday entertainment for the whole family” and another from Parables TV’s Holly McClure proclaiming the film as “the perfect gift for the whole family.”

Which leads, of course, to two questions: Who are Craig and McClure? And how did they arrive at the same “perfect,” family-focused quote for “Narnia”?

Craig and McClure belong to the class known in the industry as quotewhores or blurbmeisters — fringe figures who are more studio shills than film critics. The elusive Craig even admitted in an interview with Time that he doesn’t actually see most of the movies he helps promote, putting him just one step ahead of David Manning, the notorious fictional critic a Sony marketing exec created a decade ago to plug the studio’s poorer offerings.

Since studio marketers typically employ blurbmeisters’ quotes to tout movies disdained by legitimate critics, you’d think their influence would wane during during awards season — when more kudo-worthy fare is released. Or at least be confined to the likes of “The Tourist.”

Yet that’s not case, notes Erik Childress, whose “Criticwatch” column for website eFilmCritic monitors quotewhore pronouncements. “It’s one thing to use these ‘critics’ on something like ‘Burlesque,’ but you see them on early ads for movies like ‘The Fighter,’ too,” says Childress, veep of the Chicago Film Critics Assn. “That just smacks of laziness.” (His site named Pete Hammond quotewhore of the year in 2009. This year’s nom is pending.)

Another explanation: Marketing execs want the ad to contain certain words, whatever the source. Warner Bros.’ ad for the latest “Harry Potter” movie, which received decent reviews, contains three quotes from blurbmeisters like Fox-TV’s Jake Hamilton, who said, “The cinematic epic that defies convention and defines a generation.”

“Studios just want the hyperbole,” says a high-level studio publicist. “It doesn’t matter who supplies it.”

More from Eye on the Oscars: Crix Picks:
Advance peek clique | The impact of praise and pans | Quotewhores play role in kudos war