How do you sell the worst film of the year?

That’s the unenviable job tasked to the marketing department of Vertigo Films, who have to market the cheap Mexican adaptation of 1960s cartoon Top Cat to tired parents hoping to keep their children quiet for a couple of hours. The omens are not good. “Disaster of the year,” says the Guardian. “One of the worst-ever spin-offs of a TV  series,” says the Mail. “A grievous insult not only to the original cartoon but animation in general, and also arguably cats,” says the Telegraph.

And yet there was nothing but praise in this newspaper advert I spotted:

“10 OUT OF 10” is an impressive score for any movie; all the more impressive considering the 14% score at Rotten Tomatoes. Who is this fearless cinematic scholar willing to place his or her neck out on the line and grant this universally reviled film a perfect score? Er, Artie, aged 5.

Yes, this gushing praise comes from the mouths of babes – as well as Artie, there’s also Ellie, aged 9 and Gracie, aged 7, all misguidedly claiming to have enjoyed this Mexican cackfest.   It’s yet another campaign resorting to audience testimonials, a worrying trend for marketing films nobody liked.

There’s something rather dishonest about this practice – especially with the kind of squint-or-you’ll-miss-it small print used on this poster, which at first glance would have you believe it’s a critic who “wants to see it again”. It’s not. It’s tiny, stupid, mini-people, all under the age of 10 and many of whom will not yet have learnt the truth about the Tooth Fairy, let alone gained a comprehensive appreciation of the films of Kenji Mizoguchi.

Not that there’s anything wrong per se with testimonials from ‘real people’. We all take recommendations from friends occasionally, because we know and trust their judgement. We generally trust the judgement of critics, too, being as they are relative (though imperfect) experts in their field. What we don’t do is ask a dribbling 5-year-old if he liked the pretty colours. Of course he did. He’s an idiot. His mum probably bought him sweets and a big Fanta. He’s having the time of his life. He hasn’t got a clue.

Ultimately it boils down to a choice. Who do you want to believe: people whose job it is to watch films, or people who cannot yet dress themselves unassisted? Vertigo Films hopes the latter, or at least hopes you don’t have your glasses when looking at film advertising. Don’t fall for the subterfuge. Stay vigilant.


  1. This might be the first time I’ve ever disagreed with you John Nugent! (Yes, I am full naming you). Surely in this case the opinion of children is more valid? Not for marketing perhaps but certainly in general. They are the film’s target audience, not Christopher-I-gave-Love-Actually-a-Turkey- Tookey.

  2. I see your point, Frankie (I’m afraid I don’t know your surname). I may have been a bit hard on the little tykes, and I guess in a sense you’re right: this is a film targeted at kids, so why not hear from them? But the thing is, kids as young as five will say anything. It’s not reliable testimony. They will like ANYTHING. It’s not fair on the poor parents, either, who will probably have to sit through this rubbish and will hate it. They’re in the target audience too!

    And one thing I didn’t even mention was that for all we know, there is! Artie… You can’t invent film critics, but you can easily make up normal people. Who’s to say these kids aren’t simply product of a some advertiser’s greedy imagination?

    Thanks for the comment anyway. I enjoy being addressed by my full name.

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