Tracking Trailers: Tracking Trailers
by Alex Keen
Published: November 23, 2000
Hi folks, another dose of Hollywood marketing analysis is here. This time I chose a December release poised either to be a huge box office success, or to be a mediocre comedy that opens well and dies soon after. This time I chose What Women Want.
What Women Want (WWWNT) - Starring Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Marisa Tomei, Lauren Holly, Mark Feuerstein, and Alan Alda. Produced, Written, and Directed by Nancy Meyers. Released by Paramount Pictures December 15th, 2000. Rated PG-13. Trailer Link:Hi-Res What Women Want .
Mel Gibson has had a very interesting filmography since 1990. He started that decade with two mediocre comedies (Bird on A Wire and Air America). Then he returned to serious acting and played Hamlet. For the rest of the decade he put in primarily serious performances (Lethal Weapons and Maverick aside), with Forever Young, The Man Without A Face, Braveheart, Pocohantas, Ransom, Conspiracy Theory, and Payback. In 2000, he put in two summer efforts, one as the cheery American chicken in Chicken Run, and the other as a Patriotic Savage in Roland Emmerich's The Patriot. While The Patriot was to be Gibson's cash cow for the summer, it only out sold Chicken Run by an estimated $6.8 million dollars. Comparing Box Office to Budget, Chicken Run stands out as the clear victor. It proves that Mel Gibson can still open a comedy. Or can he? In my opinion, What Women Want will put Mel's playful personality to the ultimate test. Will America come out to see Mel let loose? Do they want to see one of People Magazine's Sexiest Men goof around and be romantic for two hours (actual running time has yet to be revealed)? Can this concept really work?
From the trailer I feel like this movie is going to be too awkward to succeed. I try to avoid making predictions in this column, and I don't claim to be predicting failure for What Women Want. I am just sharing with you my opinion.
How can you successfully sell Mel Gibson in a comedy? Well for one, we all realize that Mel has a solid reputation for being a prankster. He always seems charming interviews. He is the ideal husband for a majority of women. He is smart, serious, handsome, child-like, and probably a cool dad. He has a lot going for him. In essence, he forces the same dilemma that Bruce Willis brings to films such as The Whole Nine Yards and The Kid. The main problem is that these two men are not qualified comedians. They must rely on their charm to bring an audience to laughter. However, beyond being charming, these two actors need a strong script to support them. How complex could this story really be?
From the trailer of What Women Want, it is rather easy to ascertain the movie's plot. A "player" is magically altered so that he can hear the thoughts of women. He initially uses this power to take advantage of women, and eventually realizes that his power is better suited to understanding women. It is his doorway to understanding love. Remind you of any other movies? * cough * cough * Groundhog Day * cough * cough *.
My main concern with the trailer is that it makes the movie fit a "type." It makes it feel like a safe-bet that will not surprise you. It tells you that this movie is going to be very similar to movies you've seen before, with lesser actors as the stars. I invite you to travel to the comedy section of your video store, and I am sure you could find numerous films in the same "type," except they star the likes of Bobcat Goldthwait, Sean Young, and John Travolta (Look Who's Talking). What's so wrong with being a "type?" Ultimately, failing to exceed expectations is the problem. For example, Mission Impossible: 2. For me MI:2 was a failure because it did not advance the franchise. It made a very intriguing action film (MI:1) look worse because the franchise appeared to just be throwaway action. Granted, MI:2 made a sick amount of cash at the box office, in the long run I think all parties will look worse. From my perspective, the trailer fails to sell Mel Gibson, because it does not break from "type."
Time for some dissection. The first scene that screams "type" is when the African American doorwoman ogles Mel Gibson's ass. How convenient that the first woman He runs into after his accident not only mentally assaults him, but invokes such a racially degrading idea. This idea being, that all heavy-set African American female service staff are not only sexually aggressive, but that they more sexist then men. I wonder if there will be a scene in a church where this character is seen singing her praises to Jesus. Hollywood character cliché's never die.
Next is the "run-in" with the therapist. What would a "goofy power movie" be without the character running to a shrink (played by a semi-famous actor/actress in a cameo), asking for advise on how to deal with their new born power. He'll not only share with her his newborn power, but she'll be so strange that she believes him so sincerely that she'll suggest something silly to do with it. * yuck *
Then we meet the love interest. All she wants to do is appear properly self-sustaining and successful. Yet, in reality all she wants is Mel Gibson's hot body. She desires him, he knows, he uses his powers to his advantage until he realizes there is more to women than just knowing their thoughts.
Looking through my notes, I think I wrote this movie when I was 13. I think I'll sue.
Why the tirade you ask? You've only seen the trailer, man, you don't even know! Ultimately, it comes down to my opinion that the trailer sucks from a marketing perspective. Oh, it's not the marketing department's fault. It's the film's flaw. I will agree that the trailer is humorous. Its just too bad that the film does not give the trailer enough leeway to actually make the film seem any more complex than it really is.
Examples of films that the trailers make the film look more complex than they really are: End of Days, What Dreams May Come, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Snow Falling on Cedars, Dogma, & High Fidelity.
When it comes down to it, this trailer did not sell me because I feel like I have seen this story a million times, just never with Mel Gibson. I guess I should stay out of the mind-reading comedy section of Blockbuster.
Kickus Maximus Buttimus!