While the words “A comedic masterstroke” were indeed in Dowd’s original review, the rest of the sentence makes it clear that he thought the film was anything but.
Everyone knows that when a movie trailer or poster is peppered with single-word review quotes — “Wow,” “Thrilling,” “Meh” — there’s usually a good reason why the full sentence from the reviews aren’t being quoted. But when you see something resembling a complete thought on a DVD box, you might be misled into thinking it accurately represents the reviewer’s opinion.
Over at AVclub.com, reviewer A.A. Dowd has published an open letter to Mongrel Media, a company that picked up the DVD rights to a little-known (unless you’re a David O. Russell completist) film called Nailed and used a quote from Dowd’s review on the box.
“A comedic masterstroke,” reads the back of the packaging in bright, bold letters.
That would be great, if it even vaguely resembled what Dowd had written in his “C-” review of the film, which was released in the U.S. under the dreadful title, Accidental Love.
See, the movie was a long-in-progress project, directed by Russell and written by Al Gore’s daughter Kristin, that fell apart so many times before the director eventually washed his hands of it and had his name changed in the credits before its eventual, virtually unnoticed release earlier this year.
In Dowd’s review of the movie, he wrote [bolding for emphasis]:
To be fair to whoever refashioned Accidental Love from the abandoned scraps of Nailed, there’s little reason to believe that the ideal, untroubled version of the material would have been a comedic masterstroke.
So the review didn’t even give the glimmer of hope that there might have been a good movie in there before Russell abandoned it. And yet there’s the misappropriated quote right on the DVD box.
“Did you think I wouldn’t find out, Mongrel, just because you’re all the way up there in Canada?” asks Dowd, who accuses the company of playing “dirty pool.”
“You’re breaking the bond of trust between a critic and the public; if I lead anyone astray—and I’m sure you could find plenty of readers of this site who feel that I have—it’s by way of a difference in opinion, not malicious intent,” he explains. “Framing me as a big fan of Nailed isn’t just a lie, it’s an attack on my critical reputation. What if someone reads that and really thinks I see a ‘comedic masterwork’ in Nailed? They’ll never trust me on a comedy again!”
Dowd says he’s not demanding that the boxes be pulled from stores, just an apology, “and maybe a promise that you won’t pull this kind of stunt again. Because when you turn your allies in the critical community into unwitting shills, it’s the film-buying public that really gets nailed.”