A former writer called me a few years back and said, “I just returned from Thailand, and I brought you a present.”
My mind recoiled at the seedy possibilities. But eventually he dropped by my office and handed me a DVD.
It was a bootleg copy of Peter Jackson’s then-recent remake of “King Kong.” It featured a shoddily made cover that depicted a rough scan of the giant ape and actress Naomi Watts, stretched out of proportion. It was peppered with words that may have been in the Thai language, though the not-quite-correct phrase “The Lord of the Ring” was in English. And it was labeled as being in Digital Surround Sound. Sure.
“I don’t get it,” is how I greeted the present.
He told me to open it up, and when I removed the disc from its cover, I saw the bold words printed on its face:
“Fairly Entertaining Remake”
— Jon Niccum, Lawrence Journal-World
Where to begin ...
First off, they could pick any critic in the world, and they went with me? (It’s not like it was a B-picture slumming for a quote. Roger Ebert gave it four stars, calling it “magnificent entertainment.”)
Second, I actually gave a four-star rave of the film. Yet at no point did the phrase “fairly entertaining remake” appear in the review. In fact, the words “fairly” and “entertaining” were never used. Only “remake” shows up, as in the title of the piece: “‘Kong’ proves king of the remakes.”
Third, why go out of your way to buy a film that features the lukewarm recommendation of “Fairly Entertaining Remake”? If they were going to make up a quote from scratch, how about “best movie of the 2000s”?
I was reminded of this incident this week when I came across an excellent feature on The Huffington Post titled The Most Ridiculous Bootleg DVD Covers Of All Time.
The site explains, “Whether actually bootleg or just in foreign packaging, these DVD and VHS covers all have one thing in common, and that is extreme misinformation.”
A lovely example of this can be found on a “Battlestar Galactica” DVD, which critics describe on the box as “a good-hearted tween comedy” that features “a Saw-like twist at the end.” (What is more amazing: that these quotes are so inapplicable or that they actually put the hyphens in the right place?)
Even better is the fact that the Enterprise ship from “Star Trek” has been superimposed onto the “Galactica” cover.
In similar form is the bootleg for the indie dramedy “Lost in Translation,” which features star Scarlett Johansson with co-star Dustin Hoffman. Wait ... wasn’t Bill Murray the male lead in the film? And why is Hoffman sporting a top hat like he just stepped off the set of “Oliver Twist”?
Then there’s the post-apocalyptic thriller “I Am Legend,” a vehicle for actor Will Smith. Except the enormous critic blurb underneath his photo trumpets “Adam Sandler is simply remarkable.”
Speaking of Sandler, there’s also a bootleg of the 2004 comedy that teams him with Drew Barrymore as a woman with short-term memory loss: “50 Fist Dates.”
Ouch. The title seems a little harsh. I’m glad my name doesn’t appear anywhere on that disc.
— Entertainment editor Jon Niccum explores facets of pop culture that have established a unique niche on the Internet. He can be reached at 832-7178.