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Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Film Buff: The Bait and Switch

One of the my least favorite tactics to come out of Hollywood is the misleading trailer. I can recall in 1997, when Eddie Murphy was making the talk show rounds to promote his new action film Metro, that he seemed embarrassed about having to politely debunk what the studios had been promoting as a Beverly Hills Cop clone - right down to the poster. >
Metro, was, in fact, of a much darker and serious tone with Murphy seeking to show he could hold his own as a legitimate action hero alongside Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
As action movies go, I thought it was pretty good, but it did not do terribly well at the box office. I suspect that this was due in large part to the fact that movie-goers went in to see the light-hearted action farce that had been sold to them and were treated to very few laughs for their comedy dollar.
I think that audiences would have been happy to accept Murphy as a serious action hero, but Hollywood didn't trust us enough to sell the movie as it was.
More recently, the Kristen Stewart vehicle Adventureland appeared to be an American Pie/Van Wilder-esque romp set in an amusement park in the 80s - heck, it even featured the wisecracking Ryan Reynolds and one of the cops from SuperBad. Let the high jinks ensue!
Well, while director Greg Mottola appeared to be conflicted about the tone of his film - alternating between sincere twenty-something angst and cartoonish sight gags - it's fairly obvious that he was going for something very different than his previous directorial effort, the aforementioned Superbad. Ryan Reynolds is good, but he's not funny, nor is he supposed to be. I don't think he even cracks a smile, much less cracks wise. (He's also only in about 10% of the movie.)
Unlike Metro, I think audiences were right to dislike this film, but it should not have been because they were sold the wrong movie. If you're a fan of the alluring but morose Kristen Stewart, you may enjoy it, because she is at her alluring and morose best (though her hair color appears to change inexplicably from scene to scene.)
As I did a bit of research for this week's Friday Film Buff recommendation, I was dismayed to find that Hollywood's bait-and-switch tactics for movie teasers is nothing new.
The clever, thoughtful, ahead-of-its-time Cash McCall (1960), is far more than a modernized version of star James Garner's affable western rogue Bret Maverick, though there is little in the trailer below to suggest that this is so.

This is a much smarter film than the trailer would have us believe, and I highly recommend it for a double-feature movie night with Other People's Money (1991).
On the subject of other people's money, I think Hollywood would get more of ours if they didn't keep trying to trick us with misleading trailers.

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