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Unearthed review ruins the 100% Rotten Tomatoes score for ‘Citizen Kane’ — knocking it below ‘Paddington 2’

A person wearing a Paddington Bear costume poses for photos in London in 2018. (Frank Augstein/AP)
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The reviews for “Citizen Kane” were universally glowing: The 1941 classic was “a triumph,” “a power play of startling brilliance” and “one of the most arresting pictures ever produced,” critics raved in write-ups compiled by the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Enter Mae Tinee of the Chicago Tribune: “You’ve heard a lot about this picture and I see by the ads that some experts think it ‘the greatest movie ever made,’” began the pseudonymous critic. “I don’t.”

The 80-year-old review, recently unearthed by Rotten Tomatoes and added to the “Citizen Kane” compilation, single-handedly ruined the celebrated film’s perfect score on the site. In a development met with glee on Twitter, that meant “Paddington 2” — a live-action animated comedy about a marmalade-loving bear — suddenly carried a higher rating.

A thousand memes and jokes were born of the news that the talking-bear sequel’s score of “100 percent Fresh” had bested the “99 percent Fresh” now assigned to the film widely hailed as the greatest ever made.

“please don’t misinterpret the adjusted Rotten Tomatoes rankings to mean that ‘Paddington 2 is now the best movie of all time.’ Paddington 2 *already was* the best movie of all time,” quipped David Ehrlich, a senior film critic at Indie Wire. “thank you.”

Even the bear weighed in. Tweeting from his verified account, the unfailingly polite Paddington said, “I do hope Mr Kane won’t be too upset when he hears I’ve overtaken him with rotten tomatoes.”

Rotten Tomatoes did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment. But according to the Hollywood Reporter, the scathing review that downgraded “Citizen Kane” was discovered as part of the review site’s “Archival Project.” The effort digs up years-old critiques and adds them to old-time flicks.

“Citizen Kane” has 116 reviews — all positive, with the exception of the newly resurrected takedown from the Chicago Tribune. It’s not clear when Rotten Tomatoes made the add, but eagle-eyed social media users noticed the change — and the subsequent ratings shake-up — on Monday.

The review aggregator’s list of the “Top 100 Movies of All Time,” which uses a weighted formula, still ranks “Citizen Kane” at No. 3, outstripping the 59th-place standing of “Paddington 2.” Yet observers couldn’t help noticing that while the 2017 family adventure film maintains its 100 percent score, the Tribune addition knocked the 1941 drama down a notch in its ratio of positive to negative reviews.

Uploaded as a scanned clipping from the May 7, 1941, edition of what was then known as the Chicago Daily Tribune, the review was headlined “‘Citizen Kane’ Fails to Impress Critic as Greatest Ever Filmed.” The piece that would knock down the cinematic legend was attributed only to “Mae Tinee.” (Matinee — get it?)

In what the Tribune’s current film critic described as evidence that “some journalistic traditions are dumber than others,” multiple critics penned reviews under the pseudonym between 1915 and 1966. Thus, the writer’s true identity is unknown.

He or she offered praise for some of the performances in “Citizen Kane,” which would be nominated for nine Academy Awards. But otherwise, the mystery critic was largely unimpressed.

“It’s interesting,” the review said. “It’s different. In fact, it’s bizarre enough to become a museum piece. But its sacrifice of simplicity to eccentricity robs it of distinction and general entertainment value.”

Elsewhere in the column, Tinee blasted the movie’s lauded photography as “shadowy and spooky,” adding, “I only know that it gives one the creeps and that I kept wishing they’d let a little sunshine in.”

“Citizen Kane,” added the critic, was “an almost clinical dissection of a complete egotist” and “a study of magnificent futility.”

“Paddington 2,” by contrast, has not one single negative review listed on Rotten Tomatoes. Its page is full of praise. One particularly effusive critic described it as “a guiding light in the dark to help place a worldwide blanket of comfort over us all.”

The movie’s co-writer and director Paul King joked to the Hollywood Reporter that he would try not to let it go to his head that he had apparently triumphed over the acclaimed “Citizen Kane.”

“It’s extremely lovely to be on any list which includes ‘Citizen Kane,’ but it is obviously quite an eccentric list that goes from ‘Citizen Kane’ to ‘Paddington 2,’ so I’ll try not to take it too seriously,” he said. “I won’t let it go too much to my head and immediately build my Xanadu. But I have been cooking up a model just in case.”

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