So I'm watching TV last night (I know, mistake number one) and a commercial comes on for the new movie version of THE PRODUCERS.
In case you've been living in a bubble, the voiceover announcer helpfully informs you that it's based on "the most acclaimed Broadway show ever."
Wait... the most acclaimed Broadway show EVER?
Now, I haven't seen the Producers on-stage, and I've heard that it's funny. But it also has a lot to live up to, since the musical was based on a classic film (something that seems to have tripped up the LA Times reviewer, who gives the new film an underwhelming review in today's paper, mostly because he compares it to the previous version of the film, though he sort of forgets to mention along the way whether the new one is particularly worth seeing on its own merits. Okay, mini-rant over).
But saying that something is the "Most Acclaimed Broadway Show Ever" is quite a claim. It's also obviously hard to prove (or disprove, making it easier for them to stick it in the ad), since "acclaim" is extremely nebulous a concept.
My best dictionary pretty much defines acclaim as "applause" or "praise", which really doesn't help much, though it does focus the scope a bit. I guess you could confirm that a show was the most acclaimed ever if you could show that it got the most applause, but even then would it be on a per-show basis? Or cumulative applause over a long run? Loudness of applause, or endurance? Is 30 seconds of applause at 80 decibels better than 60 seconds of applause at 40 decibels?
Praise is a lot easier to define. But I have a hard time imagining that the movie studio actually hired someone to sift through the reviews that every Broadway show got over the past 100-odd years, looking for the one that got the most praise. Though given the rise of internet sites, it would probably be easy to claim that on sheer numbers, acclaim would be easier to get now than in 1922.
Of course, what I'm willing to bet is that the claim that it is "the most acclaimed Broadway show ever" is based solely on the fact that it won 12 Tony Awards a few years ago, which is a record. But really, all that that means is that in 2001, it was better in most categories than its rivals; stretching this to make it the "most acclaimed ever" just feels a bit like a cheat.
It's the same thing as claiming that "Ben Hur", "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" are the most acclaimed movies ever, just because they each won 11 Oscars. Are they good movies? Sure. Most acclaimed? That's more nebulous.
And as acclaim goes, one of the best pieces of acclamation is the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, which rarely goes to a musical. In fact, only one musical in the last 20 years has won it, and it wasn't "The Producers". It was "Rent".
But then again, this is the work of film promotion people, who will do anything they can get away with. Nothing like claiming you are the "#1 thriller of the week", even though your movie is tanking and isn't even in the top ten; as long as none of the movies above you are thrillers, you're golden.
And even if just 3 out of 100 critics like your film, if those three critics are spread out in Minnesota, Maine and Arizona you can claim that "critics everywhere are raving".