Our favorite (and least favorite) mis-marketed movies
Do you ever see a trailer for a movie, and right then and there, declare that you've gotta see it? But then, when you see the film, for better or for worse, you realize that it was marketed all wrong? What was supposed to be a laugh-out-loud comedy turned out to be a dark, serious drama. What you thought was an action movie actually morphed into a slapstick lark.
We, too, have been bamboozled by mis-marketed movies over the years. Here are some of our favorite, as well as the movies that left us sorely disappointed when we saw the finished product.
Molly Snyder Edler
"The Cable Guy"
When the trailers first came out for this 1996 film starring Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick, it was teased as a traditional comedy. Sure, Carrey's portrayal of a lisped, lonely cable employee named Chip creates a few laugh-out-loud scenes, like when he duels Broderick's character, Steven, at the medieval restaurant. However, "The Cable Guy" is a black comedy -- not a ha-ha comedy -- and many viewers were surprised how dark the film turns midway through when Chip's obsession with Steven escalates to straight-up stalker proportions. Personally, I really love this movie because it demonstrates Carrey's ability to play serious roles. However, "The Cable Guy" received very mixed reviews from critics. In part, I believe, from unmet expectations.
This movie takes its name from an actual skate park in Portland, Ore., called O'Bryant Square, but is nicknamed Paranoid Park, or Punk Park. The movie stars Gabe Nevins as a 16-year-old who lives by the motto "skate or die" and everything else in his life -- high school, hot but neurotic girlfriend, divorced parents -- takes a hazy backseat.
Sounds like the perfect teen drama storm, doesn't it?
I thought so too, until I remembered that director Gus Van Sant would never do that to us. His films are known for following youth through troubled times -- "My Own Private Idaho," "Gerry," "Elephant" and "Last Days" -- but never in a melodramatic cliché way. "Paranoid Park" plays out poetically, with non-linear sequencing, minimal dialogue and plenty of room for personal interpretation. He dazzled us with brilliant imagery, and a few hard-hitting scenes lets his audience fill in the rest.
His style isn't for everyone, but I certainly welcomed his 2008 surprise thinker.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did not pay to see this movie in a theater. That means I wasn't overly disappointed by the result. I did, however, see trailers and TV commercials for the flick and couldn't avoid the tabloid coverage of the budding romance between co-stars Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston and the fact that she promoted the movie while she was "breaking up" with Brad Pitt.
When I settled in to watch the flick on cable, I was expecting a broad, romantic comedy. This was not a broad romantic comedy. It actually tried to be a more purposeful study of relationships. There was some decent dialogue in places, but Vaughn fell so deeply into the "obnoxious, uncaring schlub" cliche that it was hard to understand why Aniston's character tried to keep the relationship going and didn't just move on.
In any event, this wasn't a horrible movie. It just wasn't what I expected from a strong cast that included Joey Lauren Adams, Vincent D'Onofrio and Jon Favreau, who has the best moment in the movie when he tells is buddy (Vaughn) that he indeed is a self-centered jerk.
I don't know if this movie was mis-marketed so much as mis-understood, by me. For years, I've assumed "Rocky," the classic of all classics, was about boxing. I hadn't seen the movie until a couple weeks ago but I'd seen Sylvester Stallone in the ring, running up the stairs and training at the butcher shop; it screamed rent me if you love sports.
In the same way "Field of Dreams" isn't just about baseball and "Hoosiers" isn't only about basketball, "Rocky" is far from strictly a boxing feature. Little did I know, there's a whole world of comedy wrapped up into Rocky's one-liners and romance embedded in Rocky's calls to Adrienne.
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Ebert | Dec. 12, 2008 at 12:03 p.m. (report)
Great call on "The Break Up." That movie sucked. Watched it for 10 minutes and moved on.
2 movies immediately come to mind: The Savages - The previews for this made it seem like it was going to be a light-hearted take on family trials and tribulations and sibling rivalry. I was very surprised to discover that is was actually a very sad movie about coping with death and moving on; sprinkled with some light comic relief. Running With Scissors - The previews I remember seeing for this made it out to be a dysfunctional, but humorous family drama in the vein of Wes Anderson, but it definitely was not. Turns out its really a story of an extremely dysfunctional and twisted family life chock full of emotional instability and mental illness without the humor.
"The Cable Guy" was written with Chris Farley in mind for the lead role. It would have been interesting to see how it would have turned out with him in the lead, and Ben Stiller NOT behind the camera.
2 movies immediately come to mind: The Savages - The previews for this made it seem like it was going to be a light-hearted take on family trials and tribulations and sibling rivalry. I was very surprised to discover that is was actually a very sad movie about coping with death/moving on sprinkled with some light comic relief. Running With Scissors - The previews I remember seeing for this made it out to be a dysfunctional, but humorous family drama in the vein of Wes Anderson, but it definitely was not. Turns out its really a story of an extremely dysfunctional and twisted family life chock full of emotional instability and mental illness without the humor.
My favorite poorly marketed flicks were "Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains" and "Idiocracy". With "...Stains", how could you go wrong with a film that has Diane Lane, Laura Dern, members of the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Tubes all rolled up in an OK dramedy plot? Mike Judge's "Idiocracy" is hilarious yet scary enough for some to say "It could happen.".
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