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March 05, 2011

Quick Update on The Adjustment Bureau's Deceptive Advertising Campaign

In the comments to my review of The Adjustment Bureau, people are taking two different positions:

1, that I'm right, the commercials did imply the movie was a serious, danger-filled thriller about some sinister conspiracy.

2, that I'm completely wrong, the commercials sold the movie as what it was, a romantic-comedy with a light supernatural complication in the plot.

So who's right?

Well, we all are.

The problem comes when you say "the commercials" and "the advertising campaign."

There is no ""the" a lot of the time. There are some commercials and some parts of the advertising campaign.

Certain films are genre-mixing or of an established genre that itself is already hybrid -- romantic comedies are both romances and (light) comedies, for example.

That means that some films can be pitched differently to different audiences. That means that commercials will be different depending on what audience they're targeting. For some films, I mean. Not all.

I read about this a few years ago. I'm going to make up this example (although it might be the example I actually read about); Take My Best Friend's Girl.

Now, romantic comedies are usually light comedies. Light comedies mean, well, they're less about huge laughs than a steady, fast-paced stream of amusing complications and coincidences that induces a feeling of humorous pleasure in the audience. Ever see a movie that was funny but produced few big laughs? Well, that's a successful light comedy. Not everything is about huge jokes; the humorous effect comes from the quick pace and light tone and piling on of unlikely complications.

Get Shorty is a light comedy, I think. Anchorman and Old School are pure comedies. Get Shorty doesn't sacrifice everything and anything for a laugh; in addition to being funny, it also is trying to be a fish-out-of-water movie, a caper movie, and a Hollywood movie. (That is, a movie about Hollywood.) Plus, it had a romantic subplot. It doesn't sacrifice everything for laughs because it has other irons in the fire.

Anchorman and Old School, on the other hand, are pure comedies. They don't care if some of their plot elements are silly or implausible. They're not making any genuine stab at being anything other than great laugh-out-loud movies.

Anyway, back to My Best Friend's Girl. This movie was a mixed genre because it was both, sort of, a romantic comedy, which implies light comedy, and also implies it will not sacrifice a genuine, sweet romance just for some gross-out humor. That side of it appeals more to women, as a rule.

But it was also a true comedy, a sort of frat-boy-ish gross-out Humor of Humiliation romp. That sort of movie appeals more to young men and boys (and Dane Cook fans), as a rule.

So it was a mixed genre movie -- both a romantic (light) comedy and a comedy-comedy.

You can cut commercials for it two ways: You can feature meet-cute sweet little laughs between Dane Cook and Kate Hudson, suggesting it's a romantic (light) comedy.

Or you can feature Dane Cook doing his woman-humiliation evil-seducer-and-betrayer Wildman act, with the various outrages he perpetrates to make his victims feel awful. That doesn't sound like a romantic comedy. That is more a comedy-comedy, and a specific type of comedy-comedy to boot. (Again, a sort of cynical, revenge-on-women frat-boy comedy.)

The movie was actually both things and judging by the very poor critical response and box office, it didn't work for most people. (It worked for me-- I thought it was howlingly funny in the Dane Cook Cuts Loose sequences.)

But the point is, if you were seeing another romantic comedy, the trailer for this movie would be the rom-com advertisement.

If, on the other hand, you were seeing a more frat-boyish movie like Wedding Crashers, you'd see the women-humiliated cynical sex farce ad.

Both ads were sorta true, but both were emphasizing different things, and depending on which one you saw, you might be pretty misled into thinking what kind of movie it really was.

That's why I think the movie tanked -- the cutesy rom-com angle of it did not adequately warn to female audiences that this movie was going to contain a lot of outrageous "boy humor" and alot of that at women's expense.

Anyway, I have looked on YouTube and I have seen, in fact, that the trailers there do in fact sell The Adjustment Bureau as largely being about two people prevented by Forces of Fate from being together. (However, those trailers also imply this is a thriller filled with danger-beats, people running in the rain from unknown pursuers, etc.)

All I can tell you is I swear, on a stack of Holy Bibles notebooks containing "The Chairman's" corporate agenda of human fate, that the commercials I saw barely featured the female lead (Emily Blunt) at all; I'm sure I must have seen her, but the commercials did not flag her as anything but the typical romantic interest subplot that is common to thrillers. (Most thrillers contain romantic subplots, but they are definitely subplots, and not the main plot of the thing. The main plot of a thriller is escaping from danger.)

The trailers I saw -- and apparently the ones many commenters saw -- featured no rom-com meet-cutes and kisses, but only the following:

1) Matt Damon running

2) Men in suits and fedoras capturing him and dragging him to an interrogation chair in a dark, forbidding sub-basement

3) Matt Damon running some more, in the rain

4) A man in a suit using some sort of psionic power to lift a panel in the floor and cause Matt Damon to trip


5) A man escaping through a door into a busy city street, while the next person to open that door finds it no longer leads to a city street but a small coat-closet

So I believe (actually, I know) that two different campaigns were prepared for this film, one, more accurate, for a romantic-comedy oriented audience, and a second one for anyone not particularly interested in romantic comedy. Or someone, like me, who lives movies based on Philip K. Dick paranoid science-fantasy thrillers.

I only saw the latter type of trailers. That's while I felt so deceived, and during the movie, actually asked someone ten minutes in: "Wait, is this a romantic comedy?" I just had no idea.

The Recut Trailer Craze: I'm embedding two recut trailers below. One, which recuts the Shining trailer to make it look like a family-friendly romantic comedy, and another which recuts Mary Poppins to appear to be horror movie (and actually a scary one!)

This is a joke, of course, but the point is you can actually take selected scenes from a movie and use those to imply it's another type of movie entirely. And Hollywood actually does this, especially when it comes to movies which aren't clearly of one genre or another.

That Mary Poppins is pretty scary, isn't it? All that's added is some cutting and some creepy music from An American Haunting.

Hah! Ten Things I Hate About Commandments.

Thanks to buzzion. New one on me.

Same guys did Must Love Jaws.

digg this
posted by Ace at 03:38 PM

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