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DOMENECH Plagiarism: National Review
National Review
March 24, 2006

As we mentioned in our earlier editor's note, staff here at National Review Online are going through all of the pieces Ben Domenech has written for us (the most recent of which appears to have been published in 2002) in light of questions raised in the wake of the debut of his "Red America" blog this week on the Washington Post's website (from which he has since resigned).

Our review unfortunately raises questions about several other pieces besides the one we apologized for this morning.

To give you a feel for what our staff has found:

• In a movie review of Pay It Forward on the weekend of October 21-22, 2000, Domenech writes:

…Pay It Forward is exactly the type of film that the casual moviegoer will love, and critics will pan.

In a October 18, 2000, review of Pay It Forward on "the flick filosopher" website, writer Maryann Johanson writes:

This is a film the studio knows casual moviegoers will love and critics will not…

Here's more from the same review. Ben Domenech writes:

Most kids come up with plans to put up recycling flyers or clean up the neighborhood, but Trevor's idea astounds even his teacher…

Maryann Johanson writes:

Most kids come up with plans to post flyers about recycling and such, but Trevor's brilliantly simple idea astounds even his teacher…


…when the naively youthful Osment is asked whether the plan might be 'overly utopian,' relying as it does on an act of faith in 'the goodness of people,' the boy's wonderfully optimistic reply is, 'So?'


Eugene wonders if the plan might be 'overly utopian,' relying as it does on 'an act of faith in the goodness of people,' and Trevor's naively childlike and wonderfully optimistic reply is, 'So?'

Here are two graphs from the two pieces side-by-side. Domenech:

But it isn't the script that makes this movie: it's the performances. Helen Hunt, Osment's alcoholic mother, may not have the chemistry with Spacey we're supposed to believe she has (the boy tries to set the two of them up), but she is very believable as a woman just barely holding herself together. Watching Hunt, you see what Julia Roberts was trying to do with her role in Erin Brockovich; bottle blond, with a cheap perm and garish makeup, Hunt lets herself look like hell, and pulls off an award-worthy study in trailer trash. Jay Mohr (Jerry Maguire, Go) is smarmy, charming, and pulls it off like only he (and maybe Bill Murray) can. Jim Caviezel is great as always, with a relatively small role as a timid, shy vagrant. And Jon Bon Jovi, who's only in three scenes, seems to have a knack for playing drunk jerks.


The only thing that makes Pay It Forward worth seeing, in fact, are marvelous performances by the entire cast. Helen Hunt may not have the chemistry with Spacey we're supposed to believe she has (Trevor tries to set up his mom with his teacher), but she is depressingly believable as a woman just barely holding herself together, and, in full-on Erin Brockovich mode -- bottle-blond, with a cheap perm and garish makeup -- she dares to let herself look like hell. Jay Mohr does smarmy charm better than anybody since Bill Murray. Jim Caviezel is starting to prove himself a chameleon, disappearing into his timid, shy vagrant.

Domenech says that Pay It Forward has an "inexcusably exploitative ending."

Johanson says the movie is ruined by its "inexcusably exploitive ending."

The Pay It Forward review is the worst of what we've found.

We've also found some smaller examples.

• In a review of 3000 Miles to Graceland (February 24-25, 2001, "NRO Weekend"), Domenech writes of Kurt Russell's "studded good-guy white jumpsuit."

Jane Sumner, writing in the Dallas Morning News on January 22, 2001, talks about Russell's "studded good-guy white Elvis jumpsuit."

Domenech, again, in his 3000 Miles to Graceland review writes: "…Russell, he kicked Elvis Presley in the shins in his film debut (It Happened at the World's Fair, in 1963)…"

Sumner writes: "Kurt kicked The King in the shins in It Happened at the World's Fair (1963)…"

• In a review of a Wallflowers CD appearing on the October 28-29, 2000, edition of "NRO Weekend," Domenech writes:

Dylan's songs are rich with images and anecdotes, telling tragic stories of romance on its painful last gasps; stories of mourners and murderers, sons who've been told they'd never amount to anything, and "flowers that bloom dead."

In a Rolling Stone review on October 3,2000, Tom Moon writes: that the songs on the CD are "accounts of romance that is not quite dead but on its painful last gasps."

You get the idea. Put alongside other pieces that we're looking at and that have been linked to elsewhere in the blogosphere, it's hard not to conclude there was something amiss.

We're still looking. And again apologize to our readers that this ever happened on our site.

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