Rush & Molloy

Jeffrey Lyons pans son's critics

Friday, August 1st 2008, 4:00 AM

Jeffrey Lyons is denying snipes by fellow movie critics that he used influence to get his son Ben the plum job of replacing Roger Ebert in the show "At the Movies" with Richard Roeper.

Ebert and Roeper left the ABC program within 24 hours of each other this week, and Disney immediately hired Ben Lyons, who's 26, and Ben Mankiewicz as hosts.

Critics have no beef with the erudite Mankiewicz, an expert on animation and other film genres who's a host on the Turner Classic Movies channel. But they say Ben Lyons, an E! channel personality, doesn't have the experience to replace Ebert, a Pulitzer Prize winner who created the famous "thumbs up, thumbs down" review show with Gene Siskel in 1975.

Jeffrey Lyons told us: "[My son] Ben and I are on two separate networks and different coasts. If anything, I'd have less pull getting him on."

But Ben Lyons admitted, "It has definitely helped to have my dad to open some doors for me. But you have to do the work yourself."

Erik Childress of the Chicago Film Critics Association isn't convinced. He lambastes both Lyonses for being "quote whores" - critics who write sound bites such as "riveting!" on weak flicks just to get their names on movie trailers and posters.

"Jeffrey Lyons would be on all the ads for movies, both good and bad," Childress blogged on eFilmCritic.com. "Where's the criticism if you appreciate everything that's out there?"

Childress also chided Ben for declaring the lackluster "I Am Legend" as "one of the greatest movies ever made."

"If he were 12 and had only seen 50 movies in his lifetime, it would still be one of the dumbest statements ever made by a human being named Lyons," he fumed.

But Ben has no hard feelings toward the cranky critic. "I have to agree with him on one point," he said. "My dad is on the box for 'Juwanna Man.' "

P.S.: The two Bens will have to use a different digit to assess films on their show, set to air next month. Ebert owns the trademark.

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