Sometimes literally. Childress says reviewers often offer comments to film publicists after screenings that they don’t offer to their readers. He also notes that some blurbs attributed to Travers don’t exactly square with his published opinions. “Pixar has outdone itself!” read a blurb attributed to Travers in ads for the animated film “Brave” over the summer. But that was a somewhat distorted impression of Travers’s review. Travers actually wrote, “Pixar has outdone itself in visual magic and vivid storytelling.” In a video review of the film, he added that “Brave” wasn’t as good as other Pixar films, including “The Incredibles,” “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E.”
Nevertheless, Travers plays an important role in the blurb industrial complex, says Tim Gray, editor of the Hollywood trade paper Variety. Decades ago, he says, film criticism was a fairly esoteric field with few well-known critics. So the studios tended to manufacture their own hype (“The greatest story ever told!”). But that changed in the 1980s when critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert created their popular review TV show, “At the Movies,” and their thumbs-up reviews began appearing in ads and video packaging.