February 12, 2010


I will never understand some of the marketing decisions made in the film industry. It’s truly incredible how a bad pitch can color a movie’s entire box office performance (see: Jennifer’s Body, or Jarhead). Admittedly, it is more often than not deserved. The film is awful, and its marketing is duly awful. However, given the crazy success of a lot of really, really awful films in this country, it doesn’t really make sense. Unless the film is pitched at entirely the wrong demographic, or misrepresented in a way that makes it unappealing even to the idiots who actually get excited about the Transformers franchise, there is no reason that shitty movie by that shitty director can’t make tons of money. I mean, G-Force people. G-FORCE. Turning a children’s film about ninja guinea pigs into box office gold. Nothing is impossible.

I like watching trailers. Even more, I like watching films and then watching the trailers for said films after experiencing the real thing. The packaging becomes so much more interesting when you can recognize what it is purposefully misconstruing. But when you see a trailer and go, meh, and then see the film and go ?! I am always left baffled. Why make a good film look stupid? After recently watching Adventureland I asked myself, Why didn’t I see this in theaters? I had access. I wouldn’t have had to pay for it or the delicious popcorn I would have consumed whilst watching it. And I was bored a lot around the time this came out, and I remember seeing some pretty bad films in theaters just to stave off this boredom. So why did I almost actively avoid Adventureland? Then I rewatched the trailer and made this sound: Oooooooooh. I understood, suddenly, why I had put it in the “maybe-rent” section of my film-brain. Because, based on the trailer, I had seen it already. It was called Superbad. Michael Cera look-alike? Check. SNL cast members playing supporting roles? Check. Snappy, culturally referential dialogue (sometimes I call this “Gilmore Girl Speak”)? Check. Lots of pseudo retro merchandise/costuming? Check. House parties? Check. Embarrassing situations involving boners and y-fronts? Check. And the things that made it look different from Superbad really didn’t seem like good enough incentives to justify me seeing the same movie over again. Ryan Reynolds? I don’t really understand the film-geek obsession with the guy. I mean, yes, very pretty to look at. Married to Scarlett Johansson. Delivers lines like a yankee Mathew McCaughnoehydhsudevufbay on speed. Next, Kristen Stewart. Really, marketing guys? If you wanted to give me a reason to see this movie, showing lots of Kristen Stewart in your trailer is not the way to go. I have compared watching her act to watching a box of rocks. The success of Twilight? Just a hint, marketing execs: tt has nothing to do with her. In fact, the casting directors really did a good job casting her, because she’s so boring and forgettable that the Edward Cullen obsessed tweens out there can completely pretend she isn’t there. It’s the same tactic they use in romance novels. And porn. What else? Oh, the whole “I just graduated from college and am now next to useless in the real world!” angle. Yeah. This may have been the real reason. I don’t need to watch a movie about post college malaise. I can just wake up in the morning.

For whatever reason, on this week’s trip to the nearest Blockbuster (45 minutes away, has a “Western” section, no foreign film section) I picked up the Adventureland DVD, shrugging and making non-committal sounds. I didn’t watch the film for a full 24 hours after renting it. Finally, it had me cornered. I had nothing else to do. I even cleaned the bathroom. The time had come.

And of course, it was great. The Michael Cera knock off guy was actually less Michael Cera like than the trailer would have had me believe. The script was honest and actually kind of gimmick-free. The supporting cast was great and funny, but never felt like it was there for the sole purpose of providing comic relief. In fact, some of the supporting cast was given its own storyline! I know! Multiple story lines? Fancy. Ryan Reynolds was perfect as that attractive but pathetic dude who never left his hometown and now fills the empty void left by his unfulfilled potential with barely legal tail (man, I can’t wait for my high school reunion). And get this, world. Kristen Stewart did not suck. I mean, she was no Meryl. She was not transcendent. But nor was she a place-filler for adolescent-female-vampire-porn-vixen. She carried her weight and interacted believably with the other characters; she even emoted, and no, I don’t mean just biting her bottom lip. And the film as a whole? The script was great, and the film’s feel managed to remind me really strongly of American Graffiti, which isn’t easily done. I mean, that film’s director can’t even halfway recreate that kind of brilliance (Lucas, man, what happened?). It also reminded me of The Graduate in the way it approached the post-college world. Adventureland’s post college ether, effectively manifest in the theme park itself, was a large part of the story, but it wasn’t the whole story (see: Post Grad.) Instead, the college limbo land that our main character lands in is just the lens through which we get to look at his whole life, past and present. He isn’t just a post graduate, and neither are the other characters which inhabit the limbo with him. I also thought the film was timely, given the number of college graduates who are falling off the end of the conveyer belt as we speak, trading in their philosophy and modern literature degrees for jobs at Starbucks and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. I guess I am saying that Adventureland took a topic that is sometimes reduced to gimmick and sideshow in a lot of films and looked at it honestly, taking advantage of the surrealism that is post-graduate life to tell a really realistic story. And my question is, why did the marketing team for this film do everything it could to convince you that this movie was not that movie—that it was gimmick and comic relief and boner jokes? Thanks marketing team, but if I wanted to see a movie about bad corndogs… well. No. Why would I want to see a movie about that? The mind reels.

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