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Archive for Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Fake critic’s rave reviews puzzles Sony Pictures

June 6, 2001

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— The revelation that Sony Pictures promoted several movies with accolades from a critic who didn't exist raises the question: Why would the studio even bother?

"That's the question we've got, too," Sony spokeswoman Susan Tick said Monday, adding that an investigation was under way into who generated quotes from the phony "David Manning of The Ridgefield Press."

Some of the movies involved had already gotten legitimate positive reviews. Besides, studio publicists can often come up with someone to praise almost any movie, no matter how terrible.

In advertisements for the Rob Schneider farce "The Animal," the fictional Manning said: "The producing team of 'Big Daddy' has delivered another winner!"'

The photo in the ad parodies the Adam Sandler "Big Daddy" poster, featuring Schneider and a monkey facing a brick wall.

Both films were Sony movies, and one benefit of the fake quote is that it allows Sony to link "The Animal" to the successful "Big Daddy" and to try to hook the same audience.

In another ad, Manning declared Heath Ledger of the action-comedy "A Knight's Tale" as "this year's hottest new star!" The quote itself is puzzling, considering Ledger was a new star in 1999.

The phony blurbs were spotted last week by a Newsweek reporter who challenged the reviewer's authenticity.

Major critics such as Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone had lauded "A Knight's Tale," and Stephen Holden of The New York Times characterized Schneider's work in "The Animal" as "ingenious."

"It's very mystifying. There really wasn't a need to create quotes for these movies," said Marla Matzer Rose, the marketing writer for the entertainment trade newspaper The Hollywood Reporter. Tick, the Sony spokeswoman, characterized the use of a fake critic as "a case of incredibly bad judgment" and insisted that studio officials did not know Manning was a fraud.

Manning quotes also appeared in ads for the Sony movies "Hollow Man" and "Vertical Limit" last year.

At The Ridgefield Press, a small weekly newspaper in Connecticut, officials said they didn't realize the paper's name had appeared in the ads.

"There has never been a David Manning who works for us," Marty Hersam, managing partner of the newspaper, said Monday. "We're as surprised as anybody."

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