movie film review | chris tookey
harsh reviews
An A to Z of the World's Deadliest Movie Reviews From Affleck
to Zeta Jones
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Enemies of Euphemism
My mother used to tell me that if you canít speak well of someone, you shouldnít speak of him at all. This was exceptionally bad advice for a future critic, and I have disregarded it ever since.

I have compiled this database over more than 20 years, and it has confirmed me in the belief that some of the best, funniest and most astute criticism has been hostile and, on occasion, downright cruel.

There is a place for encouragement and celebration, of course, but only the worst critics speak well of everything and everyone. Far too many reviewers use euphemism in an attempt to blind their readers to the reality that roughly 90 per cent of everything we watch has no lasting value at all.

These quote whores, blurbmeisters and junket junkies can easily be spotted for the eagerness with which they fawn over the most worthless Hollywood blockbuster as "rip-roaring" (deafening), "action-packed" (sickeningly violent) or "visceral" (likely to provoke nausea).

Failed comedies attract judgments such as "light-hearted" (no one laughed), "amusing" (someone laughed) and "hysterical! It had me rolling in the aisles!" (I decided this might be more bearable if I turned up drunk).

Such hacks routinely describe even the least competent movie actors as "popular" (canít act) or "ever-popular" (never could act). Old, bad actors are automatically hailed as "distinguished" (no longer able to remember lines), "reliable" (eternally uninteresting) or "legends in their own lifetime" (practically dead). Bad actresses invite such doublespeak as "pert" (no talent, nice bottom), "fun-loving" (screws around) or "striking" (my God, look at her plastic surgery!)

Older actresses of less than celestial perfection receive such dubious accolades as "redoubtable" (abusive when drunk), "much-loved" (used to screw around) or "evergreen" (her skinís a funny colour).

Such euphemisms are by no means confined to the popular press. Would-be elitist critics routinely describe art-house films, however rotten, as either "lustrous" (in black and white) or "sumptuous" (in colour).

Other broadsheet bromides in need of translation include "acclaimed" (unseen by me), "possesses a mythic clarity" (unbearably slow) and "tour de force" (foreign).

Anyone with an aversion to pretentious movies should also watch out for such adjectives as "accessible" (I think I understood it), "enigmatic" (I didnít understand it) and "surreal" (no one understood it).

So when you see a performance described as "understated", be aware that this probably just indicates that it is dull and inaudible. If an actorís "larger than life" heís an uncontrollable egotist indulging in grotesque over-acting. And "brave" just means the partís beyond him.

No such euphemisms are to be found here. The critics here have tried to tell it like it is.

Chris Tookey

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