Once upon a time, back in the days when films were shown on rocks and I had just begun my movie-critic career, I was misquoted in a newspaper ad.

It seems naive now, but I was rather dumbfounded at the audacity of a movie studio to take a quote, put in elipses, and turn a negative comment into high praise.

Ingenious or evil genius?

The film was the now-forgotten 3-D spaghetti Western "Comin' At Ya!" starring Tony Anthony . . . or was it Anthony Tony? (I later wrote a story about the misquote, saying that at last I had arrived.)

These days, however, that sort of silly fabrication isn't necessary. No matter how bad a movie is, some "critic" out there has praise for it.

Part of that is because there are now more critics than movies.

Does anybody really go to a movie because of an ad's hyperbolic quotes? If so, an endorsement from Ebert & Roeper or Newsweek or the Los Angeles Times is probably more trustworthy than Comcast CN8 or KNX radio — or Westwood One . . . whatever that is.

Just sifting through movie ads in the past couple of Arts & Leisure sections from the Sunday New York Times is quite telling.

And it's a source of amusement to see some of the things written about certain films.

Here are some examples, though whether the exclamation points belong to the writers or the movie studios is up for debate.

Westwood One's Bill Bregoli endorses "She's the Man" — the only quote in the ad — with an enthusiastic "This year's 'Mean Girls' gets a classic twist."

The new Disney remake of "The Shaggy Dog" leads off with an all-caps "HILARIOUS!" and adds " 'The Shaggy Dog' is Tim Allen's funniest movie yet," from Jim Svejda, KNX/CBS radio.

"Shaggy" also has this from Tim Estiloz of Comcast CN8 Network: "Laugh-out-loud funny! Tim Allen is a comedic Tour de Force!"

"V for Vendetta" has Time Magazine, Ebert & Roeper and Premiere on its side, along with this from "Access Hollywood": "The first truly great film of 2006."

Well, it is only March 24.

But if that's premature, how about Gene Shalit of the "Today" show regarding "16 Blocks": "The best thriller of the year!"

Shalit isn't even allowing for the possibility that a better thriller might yet show up in 2006.

Hey, isn't "V" also a thriller?

Peter Sobczynski, efilmcritic.com says "UltraViolet" is "A visual feast from start to finish!" (Does that include the end credits?)

Newsday's Pat Mullooly gets cutesy about "Aquamarine": "Two Fins Up." (Should E&R sue?)

Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum on "16 Blocks": "A thick, juicy steak of a thriller!" (I saw it as a strawberry sorbet of a thriller. Or maybe a hard-shell bean burrito of a thriller. Or. . . . )

And Jess Cagle of WCBS-TV and People magazine praises "Failure to Launch" because the stars look good together. "(Matthew) McConaughey and (Sarah Jessica) Parker make a beautiful couple." (Do I have to see the movie to get this effect? Wouldn't staring at a photo in a magazine suffice?)

Then there's that famous, well-respected movie critic Larry King. Who knew? (Two suspenders up!)

King on "The Pink Panther": "Flat out hilarious. Steve Martin is incredible."

King on "Firewall": "Harrison Ford is back with a bang!"

Go Larry!

Now there's a guy who can offer one thick, juicy steak of a quote.


E-mail: hicks@desnews.com