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Criticwatch - Despicable Hammond & A New Hope

by Erik Childress

With over $60 million in the bank during its opening weekend, the new animated film Despicable Me shattered many expectations at the box office. It was the sixth family film of the summer and looks to be the fifth of them to soar over $100 million (only Marmaduke failed to reach that height.) Of the four major animated releases of 2010, the critical response did not reach the levels of either Toy Story 3 or How To Train Your Dragon, but its 4-out-of-5 approval at Rotten Tomatoes is nothing to sneeze at (even if I think I locally know most of the ones who were not as enchanted. With so many reviews to choose from though, Universal continues the trend in disgracing their product by using critics that no one in their right mind would follow into a darkened theater.

We are going to let one of them off the hook right up top though. 11 year-old Jackson Murphy has been getting traction lately on CBS' Early Show for his critiques. He has a website where he is known as "Lights Camera Jackson" and it is loaded with movie reviews, blog entries and the kind of enthusiasm that I'm sure reminds a lot of critics of my generation of their own cinema-obsessed youths. We could say "too much, too fast" but this kid seems to have a good head on his shoulders. He still has a ways to go as far as grammar and putting a lengthy review together (don't we all?) but that will come with time.

For now though it looks as if he may be one of the incorruptible of the next generation; something that can't be boasted by Ben Lyons. At least, I certainly hope. You have to respect an 11 year-old who will give a "C" to Percy Jackson, a "D+" to Alice in Wonderland and an "F" to the new Clash of the Titans. That "B" for Tooth Fairy is a little odd, but we are all granted the occasional odd indulgence. (Plus, he might just have a little crush on Julie Andrews.) As for Despicable Me, he was quoted as saying:

"Move over Toy Story 3, make room for the minions!"

If we may be allowed to play the role of mentor here, careful on that kind of language Jackson. We are only three weeks into the run of Pixar's greatest financial success and the last thing you want to do is throw under the bus a film that you gave a higher grade to; in fact the only film you're on record giving an "A" to all year. Just a little tip for you. Keep it up. You are OK in our book and we would rather see you on the ads then Cody Gifford.

Now Jackson if you are reading, here are the types of critics you do not want to become and want no business associating with. If a studio decides to give you the A-list treatment and fly you out to see their films and one of these guys come up to shake your hand - be polite - but then find a way to snub them at all costs. In fact, it is best that you begin denouncing their names right now. Maybe the ripple effect of scorn from a grade schooler will reverberate across the industry and get others to join the cause.
Otherwise we will be forced to see Peter Travers say stuff like Despicable Me "puts a smile on your face that will last all the way home." For him that puts it somewhere between Pineapple Express which he said "slaps a big, fat, goofy smile on your face that lasts for days" and The Guru which simply just "puts a smile on your face" - with an exclamation point! That is Travers' grading system for you.

Then we have the disembodied radio entity who has taken the Earth name of Jeff Craig who called the film "hilarious" and "this year's coolest animated comedy." I never know what one of these yahoos mean when they call something "cool." Do they mean it in a "hip" sort of way. Can something be "cooler" than say a film that gives you the complete package in ways others can not? What is this "funky cool animation" you speak of in reference to last year's Planet 51, that "lots of fun," "funny and inventive" film that delivered "off-the-wall comedy" according to you? In March 2009 you had already declared Monsters vs. Aliens as "this year's coolest comedy!" And here we are sixteen months later and Despicable Me with its own monsters and aliens gets nearly the same branding. Not cool.

But young Mr. Jackson, of all the mentors you can possibly have in your chosen profession, whatever you do - ignore the teachings of one Pete Hammond. He is the Emperor Palpatine to your Anakin, the Magneto to your Pyro, the shit to your shinola. Consider for a moment what Hammond said about Despicable Me:

"It's impossible to have a better time at the movies this summer. Roaringly funny, heartfelt and imaginative."

Oh really? Impossible? IM-POSSIBLE? Just two days after the film opens you are already quoted as saying that The Sorcerer's Apprentice is "spellbinding". Not to mention you were already pimping ads for seven other films this summer. Can we just chart those for a moment in relative order of progression?

It's a thrilling adventure and just plain fun. (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time)

Provocative, highly entertaining. Helen Mirren lets loose with another terrific performance. (Love Ranch)

Truly Awesome. Hilarious, heartwarming entertainment for all ages. (Toy Story 3)

A must-see! A rich, romantic and captivating movie experience. (Princess Kaiulani)

A triumphant success! Spectacular epic moviemaking at its best in the tradition of Gladiator and Braveheart. (Robin Hood)

The funniest film of the year! The best comedy of the year! 9Shrek: The Final Chapter)

The best action film in years! Now it really feels like Summer has begun! (The A-Team)

It's impossible to have a better time at the movies this summer. Roaringly funny, heartfelt and imaginative. (Despicable Me)

And that is just where he got quoted on the ads. Hammond has also provided positive "fresh" reviews to Iron Man 2, Knight and Day, Get Him To The Greek and The Karate Kid amongst others this summer. In fact the only film to open this summer that he hasn't reviewed favorably is the Hasidic drug mule drama, Holy Rollers. Way to take a stand there, Pete. Something we thought was impossible. You get the feeling that when Hammond orders a pizza, he takes a slice and declares it the greatest thing he has ever eaten. Until he takes the next slice. From the same pizza. "Impossible to have a better time at the movies." The words reverberate his stupidity with greater intensity with every repeated syllable. Just look at where he could have been quoted from his reviews

"Just about the best screen team since Butch met Sundance, Brand and Hill have an outrageous and hilarious blast that rocks and rolls with constant comedy." (Get Him To The Greek)

"...stylish, globe hopping, action-packed comedy that starts at full blast and never lets up. (Knight and Day)

Those sound like pretty good times too. The nerve of his Despicable Me quote is trumped only by how far up his own ass he can go, calling Cyrus "a smart, if slight, nifty comedy that stands out as an oasis among the overbloated summer competition." YOU HAVE GIVEN ZERO NEGATIVE REVIEWS TO THE BLOCKBUSTERS, PETE!!! How can you call the competition "OVERBLOATED???!!!" You liked frickin' Prince of Persia!!! How about these bookends to his Iron Man 2 review?

"...look for this 2nd visit to Marvelís latest cash cow to top the original, not only for ratcheted up action, excitement and pure movie fun but also at the box office and beyond."

"This Iron Man may not be the Godfather II of comic book movie sequels critics hope for but it is a complete blast anyway."

So you open by saying the action, excitement and fun are "ratcheted up" but then end by saying no one will consider it The Godfather Part II, considered arguably one of the very few sequels to outclass their predecessors. It is impossible for Hammond to even remember how he started his review, so how can we hold him accountable to know what he said last week to a studio publicist? Just three days after he posted his Despicable Me review where his quote is covered in the "likely" possibility that it is "impossible to have a better time at the movies this summer" (not families, just "audiences") Warner Bros. allows him to post his Inception review while many of us (though overwhelmingly positive) have to wait until the day before. In that review - again, just three days after his "impossible" Despicable Me declaration, Hammond says:

"In terms of sheer originality, ambition and achievement, Inception is the movie of the summer, the movie of the year and the movie of our dreams."

Where is Daffy Duck when you need him? This guy is a walking contradiction in shithead terms and he should not be allowed to say anything about Inception, because like everything else, praise from Hammond's mouth can only cheapen it. Jackson Murphy, along with everyone associated with the studios, would be better served to steer far away from this guy. Positive reviews and quotes are easier to find than ever. Put me on the payroll and I'll be happy to do the legwork for you. Mix it up so you don't ever have to use junket critics again for anything but the softball interviews they excel at. I'll give you names you won't have to use a shrink ray on when putting them in the commercials because you are so embarrassed. And you should be. Work with some real critics. We are fair people. We disagree all the time. Someone will like your movie. No more Travers. No more Hammond. Truly it is not impossible.

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originally posted: 07/14/10 02:15:35
last updated: 09/30/18 11:34:58
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