Never review a film you haven't seen
...It could be Citizen Kane.
Mark Kermode's refrain when occasionally - usually through spending compulsory family fun time on the Wittertainment Cruise - he has not seen a film in the UK Top 10 but is asked his opinion on it anyway. This particularly became a running gag when, week after week, Mark continually failed to see An Education.
Apparently, some other critics are known to have reviewed films they haven't seen anyway. This usually happens for two very different reasons:
1) Because they can't be bothered
In Hatchet Job, Mark points out that James Silver of The Guardian highlighted Johnny Vaughan was very rarely present at screenings, despite the large number of reviews in his name in The Sun. Vaughan's spokesman replied in effect that he was "lucky enough to have super-special private screenings." Meanwhile Mark also gave the example of 5 Live's own Richard Bacon cheerfully admitting in his 2013 memoir A Series Of Unrelated Events that he neither watched the films nor wrote the copy for his reviews in The People newspaper, eventually being caught out when he told the publicist of The Lake House that he would definitely try to see the film, only for her to reply that he had not only reviewed it, he had hated it.
2) Because they are so offended by the film's content, they refuse to see it on principle
The Wind That Shakes The Barley was attacked by a number of right-wing British critics who had not seen the film but had heard about the argument it was making and took against it anyway. Similarly, Angels and Demons was condemned by one leading Catholic critic who had not seen it, prompting one reader response that said "You are a man of great faith: you believe, although you have not seen." Mark thought this was a funnier joke than anything in the film.
"I haven’t seen it myself, nor shall I - and I speak as a broad-minded arts critic. But merely reading about Antichrist is stomach-turning enough to form a judgement... it contains horrors the likes of which I have never witnessed [which was indisputably true, since he hadn't witnessed them]. It doesn't shock or surprise me that Europe now produces such pieces of sick, pretentious trash - fully confirming our Jihadist enemies' view of us as a society in the last stage of corruption and decay."
Mark thought that such a review was so ridiculous it was dangerously close to satire. As did others.
Mark's son Gabriel once "reviewed" Ice Age 3: Dine Of The Dawnosaurs live on air without having seen it, describing it as "rubbish". To be fair to Gabriel, this was only because Mark, peeved that Simon Mayo's son Joe had thought that film "amazing" and disagreed with Mark's view that the plot was "all over the shop", had forced him to say that. Gabriel's sense of ethics was so strong that he burst out with "I haven't seen it!" immediately afterwards - adding that he would like to, however (to which Mark replied, "no...")