So you're a studio exec, and you just greenlit a $70 million movie called Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow to be shot entirely in front of green screens. You're planning on using CGI to fill those screens with giant robots trundling around 1930s New York. Unfortunately, your focus group results just arrived, and the majority of the audience tells you all they really wanted to see was a sexy hamburger.
Where's the fucking beef people?
As you're preparing to clean out your desk, you notice that one of the focus group members mentioned Angelina Jolie for some reason. After re-watching the film, making sure not to blink the second time, you confirm that Jolie does in fact make a brief cameo. But since she's the most bankable star in Hollywood, you release a trailer that uses that cameo like Native Americans used a buffalo carcass.
She isn't kidding when she tells Gwyneth, "It's a pleasure to finally meet the competition," as they meet an hour and two minutes into the movie, resulting in Angelina getting slightly more screen time than Sir Lawrence Olivier, who was cast as the villain using stock footage recorded before he died.
Can we imply that Angelina has sex with the dead guy?
Using a star's brief cameo as bait in a cinematic bear trap is nothing new. The trailer for Star Trek: Generations seemed to promise Kirk and Picard standing shoulder to shoulder saving the universe, like a galactic 48 Hours if Eddie Murphy was also old and white. Of course, in the actual film they unceremoniously drop a bridge on Kirk so fast he might as well be wearing a red shirt.
But devotees of the Star Trek and Angelina Jolie's remarkable boobs have nothing on the apparently sizable, and oft-mislead talking-animal fanbase. The trailer for the 2002 movie, Snow Dogs, featured Cuba Gooding Jr. playing second fiddle to a team of wise cracking sled dogs to the strains of "Who Let the Dogs Out." Look Who's Talking fans marked their calendars, while the rest of us wondered just how the fuck Cuba Gooding, Jr. had gone from Best Supporting Actor to comedic foil for a team of jive talking huskies.
Well, he didn't. The scene with the talking dogs is actually from a brief dream sequence. The film is a zany comedy, sure, but it's a zany comedy about Gooding's emotional quest to find out who his real parents are. As mortified as Gooding must have been when he saw the trailers had hidden him behind CGI animals, imagine how depressed he was when the dogs opened at #1 in the box office. Actually, that makes us a little depressed too.
That, by the way, reminds us of the single most annoying thing trailers do...
As should be clear by now, Hollywood hates new things. They might reluctantly let a successful enough filmmaker take on a movie that's a little different than the ones he's made in the past. Just don't expect the trailer to tell you that.
Just your typical Spielberg awesomeness, folks.
When E.T. was released, the trailer used a creepy POV shot to make it look like Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the hit supernatural thrillers that Steven Spielberg was known for churning out up to that point.
Of course, E.T. went on to become bigger than all of his previous films, so when Gremlins was released four years later with Spielberg as the Executive Producer, the campy horror film was made to look like a tale of a little boy and his furry alien friend.
It works the same way for stars. Giving Robin Williams some coke and setting him loose in a light-hearted family comedy used to be one of the few ways a studio could ensure their movie would shit solid gold at the box office. However, Williams's desire to play dramatic roles has led to an incredible resume of lighthearted trailers for depressing films:
But what if nobody in your movie has ever made anything good before? What sort of movie are you supposed to pretend you've made then? In 2004, Jerry Bruckheimer was pitching around an R-rated buddy comedy as Midnight Run in Australia, which would have been an apt description if the stars of Midnight Run were Kush from Jerry Maguire and that fat comedian nobody likes.
No, the black one.
Frantically searching for an unoriginal idea to steal, Bruckheimer found his answer in a Cuba Gooding, Jr. film that had tricked audiences into theaters with talking huskies. A dream sequence was added featuring a rapping CGI kangaroo wearing shades and performing "Rapper's Delight" with a sassy Australian accent. Then the ads for the movie featured basically nothing but that.
The film's name became Kangaroo Jack, a play on the slang term "to steal" that was clearly meant to trick audiences into thinking the Kangaroo was the star. Fans of talking animals, most of them under five-years-old, were duped once again. But where Snow Dogs had tricked them into seeing a light-hearted family comedy, Bruckheimer had tricked them into seeing a raunchy, boob and gay joke-centric action movie.
The results? Kangaroo Jack took the #1 spot at the box office its opening weekend, Jerry Bruckheimer's balls got a little closer to bursting forth from his scrotum and everyone in Hollywood once again learned that no matter how much the Internet bitches and moans about their evil trickery, that shit works.