Trailer Hitch

By David Mumpower

March 16, 2005

If you don't start hitting better, I'm gonna have to put you on the juice.

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6) Palindromes

”I never had a slut in my house before.”

Get in line, bub. To my infinite disappointment, this trailer does not play out the same way forwards as backwards. Todd Solondz has a reputation for being one of the quirkiest, least conventional directors in the industry, and this spot supports that assertion. Even after seeing it, I have no idea what this movie is supposed to be about. Innumerable interchangeable people, mainly kids, make cute and incisive comments about what it means to live and grow up in our society. Otherwise, nothing much happens. It’s an understated attempt to sell the Solondz name to the audience he already has while marginally branching out a bit to other daring art house denizens looking to try something new. It doesn’t do much for me, but your mileage may vary.

5) Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

There was a time when George Lucas was capable of creating quality science fiction. Or so I am told. Speaking as someone who put away his Darth Vader outfit the morning after Halloween 1980 and never looked back, the man’s appeal has always been something of a mystery to me. The reverential tones used for the original Star Wars trilogy are ones men have historically reserved for discussions about boobies. I don’t understand it but I have learned to accept it over the years. I did, however, find grim amusement in the universal disappointment lifelong Lucas-ites had when the first prequel came out. The poor bastards waited over 15 years for a movie whose target demographic was negative eight when the original trilogy finished its theatrical run. Three years later, any hope of immediate redemption was lost when the second prequel took the unexpected form of a douche commercial. Anakin feeling not so fresh aside, the prequels have thus far proven to be the worst idea since New Coke, and George Lucas is laughing all the way to the bank as these naïve sorts continue to fan the flames of hope.

Enter the latest trailer.

I have seen any number of comments that indicate that this clip exemplifies the fact that Revenge of the Sith will be the Empire Strikes Back of the prequels. To this, I may only ask: what footage are you seeing? All I get on my computer is an extended Lite Brite commercial with less plot than your average episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? There is one brief instant where blue sparks are shot at Yoda. That’s it. That’s the only highlight of the clip. This thing couldn’t look any less appealing if it co-starred Ashton Kutcher. People have this pavlovian training that makes them believe that any time they see the logo of Lucasfilm LTD, they should drool shamelessly and later wet the bed in excitement. If you haven’t learned the danger of this by now, there is little I can do to help you. Just go back to saying, “Ooh, it’s Chewie!” and play with your various Fett-related figurines.

4) Zathura

This production is best described as a semi-sequel to Jumanji. The literary work written by Chris Van Allsburg that is the basis for Zathura the movie is a sequel to the literary work that is the basis for Jumanji. As such, the storylines are similar. Like the Robin Williams/Bonnie Hunt film, this one involves kids playing a boardgame. Brothers Danny and Walter are at home alone after their dad heads off for the day. The younger boy, Danny, discovers a board game and attempts to read the description on one of the cards. When he is unable to do so, he asks Walter for help. As fate would have it, the word is meteor and the description indicates they should find safe harbor fast. Just like Jumanji, the card has an all-too-literal interpretation and the boys find themselves in the middle of a meteor strike. As fun as this segment is, it’s the final shot in the clip that steals the show. The boys are in for a surprise as is the audience as they realize what has happened. As far as teasers go, this is quite engaging and also unusually dense with storyline.

3) Herbie: Fully Loaded

Flash back, if you will, to a simpler time. The year was 2003, and the summer saw a perky ingénue once again re-make a Disney classic; this time it was Freaky Friday. The girl seemed so young and innocent, the fresh-faced representative of a new generation at Disney. That was approximately a parental divorce, three breast augmentations and 17 encounters with the Girls Gone Wild crew ago. Lindsay Lohan is no longer viewed as the sweet young thing whom a parent would like to see their child take on as their role model. She’s too busy feuding with Tara Reid about which of them is closer to the model of virtue Paris Hilton to bother with such concerns. For their part, Disney has even had to go to the extra length of digitally reduced the *ahem* buxomness level of Lohan’s chest. She went a couple of sizes too large for the family friendly studio’s comfort during her last nip/tuck.

This sort of overhead makes marketing Herbie: Fully Loaded something of a nightmare for the studio. I have posited “Ignore the Whore! The car is the star!” as their ad slogan, but the reception to this idea has been cool thus far. It is, however, the noted tone of the trailer. Lohan issues aside, this approach is not surprising as it’s the concept which is king here. Questionable issues about how a Volkswagen could develop self-awareness aside, that adorable Beetle is more human than most humans. The effervescent nature of the vehicle is played up well here. Encounters with NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon and villainous foil Matt Dillon do a marvelous job of encapsulating the timeless appeal of Herbie. Even Lohan is charming here during a moment when the car somehow manages to feel amorous. These Disney re-makes are near-automatic hits, and Fully Loaded should prove to be no exception.

2) Bad News Bears

The original film was something of an anomaly in the realm of family-friendly entertainment. It hid a subversive streak that appealed to adults while showing all the signs of being a film about kids made for kids. Walter Matthau offered up one of the great performances of his legendary career as a man who had no business whatsoever being near children, much less being ostensibly a role model to them. Universal pulled off something of a masterstroke with the re-make when they cast Billy Bob Thornton. To see proof of this, look no further than the deliciously inappropriate comment he makes at the end of the trailer. He seems inspired and in his element here. Plus, he gets to repeatedly bean kids, and the man seems to genuinely relish the opportunity. This one is going to be huuuuuge. Great spot.

1) The Amityville Horror

“There is something evil in my house.”

By now, most people are at least incidentally familiar with the details of the Amityville house. Due to the writing of Jay Anson, the novelist responsible for the story’s infamy, as well as Ed and Lorraine Warren, the supernatural clairvoyants/shameless self-promoters, and the debunking of Dr. Stephen Kaplan, Amityville is legendary 30 years after the fact. The tale started back in 1975 when Ronald DeFeo went crazy and murdered his parents as well as his three siblings while they slept. This allowed a couple named George and Kathy Lutz to buy what had become nicknamed the murder house for much cheaper than market value would dictate. From there, the new couple claimed that an evil presence existed in the house and went to a local cleryman to ask for a second opinion. During the process, the Catholic priest allegedly was told “Get out!” by said malevolent spirit, so he did just that. Soon after, George Lutz claimed to be controlled by this entity and began to act erratically. The family grew so scared of his behavior that they fled sans their possessions in order to get away from the demonic forces. The Warrens later performed a séance that was covered by the media where they put on a show about how dark the house was. Kaplan later outed the entire series of events as an attempt by DeFeo’s lawyer to create a “devil made him do it” alibi for his client which George Lutz agreed to join since it meant a cheaper mortgage. But stories like that don’t make for great horror movies.

The Amityville Horror trailer focuses on the fictional events Anson invented that grew to be legendary thanks to the original production. This trailer focuses upon the Lutz family’s initial days when the couple and their daughter buy the discounted home, move in and begin to experience disconcerting events. Everyone reacts to horror differently, so I can’t speak to what mainstream opinion will be. I can, however, say in all sincerity that I got chills at three different points during this clip. The spot does a great job of implementing all the known novelties of the Amityville story in a gradual build. Like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre spots from 2003, whoever edited this commercial shows an innate understanding of what works about the concept. It’s creepy, it’s subtle, and it’s wildly effective.



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