The movie wasn’t even out, but the reviews were in, exclamation points and all: “This is a fabulous movie!” “Would highly recommend it to anyone!” “Fantastic!”
The reviewers were praising “One Week,” a new film about a young man (“Dawson’s Creek” alum Joshua Jackson) with terminal cancer who takes a motorcycle trek across Canada. The enthusiastic blurbs, featured in a full-page advertisement, came from ordinary folks.
That may be unusual, but that’s not the strange part: the positive notices, in red print, were taken (almost) straight from comments about the trailer, posted on YouTube.
Some of the blurbs made it seem as if the writer actually saw the movie. Others appeared to be looking forward to catching the flick: “This movie looks amazing! Cannot wait to see it!!” The odd array of blurbs was explained only by an asterisk next to the ad’s “All of Canada is talking about ONE WEEK” headline that led to some fine print on the bottom: “Quotes from YOUTUBE.”
The YouTube commenters may have been doubly surprised to see their posts in newsprint: Torontoist reported that many of the quotes were attributed to the wrong writer.
The potentially deceptive ad comes as the ranks of professional movie reviewers are thinning amid tough times for traditional media outlets. Anyone with internet access can be a movie critic, for better or worse, and we’re sure to see more ad blurbs from non-professional reviewers.
The troubling part about this gimmick, though, is that the blurbs were based on a two-minute, 34-second trailer – which could be misleading to the many whose eyes didn't make it down to the disclaimer. For moviegoers who use ads to help them decide whether to spend their hard-earned 10 bucks (or $12.82 Canadian) on a ticket, that doesn’t seem particularly fair.
There’s no U.S. run planned so far for the low-budget film, promoted as a scenic love letter to Canada. “One Week” hit theaters Friday, and the reviews from Canadian critics who actually saw the movie are fairly positive – sans red print and exclamation points.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.