I love trailers. I love them so much that I have often spent full days just watching trailers on YouTube until I fall asleep. They provide a ridiculous amount of anticipation for upcoming films or a nostalgia to films long gone. However, there is one type of trailer that acts as a double edged sword. This is the comedy trailer. The catch 22 here is that they have to sell their movie, make people want to see it, establish the tone and that it’s got a load of laughs. But, they can’t give away all the best jokes otherwise there would be little point in people seeing it. That’s the big problem many trailers have, it often renders the film unfunny if you know what’s coming next.
One of the most blatant instances of this was when I recently saw a copy of Johnny English Reborn. The first one was very watchable, pretty funny and Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller and John Malkovich were on top form. A comedy that didn’t that itself too seriously. You expect predictability but in a good way, not in a ‘I saw that in the trailer’ way.
Where that was appealing to me, last year, I didn’t much fancy Johnny English Reborn at the cinema, I didn’t think it would merit the ticket money. It may have been considered if I didn’t see the trailer about 40 times at the cinema, as well as the preceding adverts that showed the trailer again to sell the Odeon Premier card. I knew what was coming and it dulled the enjoyment of an otherwise bland film. These jokes and slapstick humour are what would of saved the film for me, but considering I knew when they were coming it just killed it for me.
Things I could expect included Johnny English hitting a woman with a tray repeatedly before getting hit again, mistaking Gillian Anderson’s mother with that of an assailant, driving a motorised wheelchair under a lorry whilst evading the authorities and of course, that old chestnut, getting hit in the testicles several times.
This is why when I see a trailer like the Hangover 3, This is the End or 21 and Over I’m terrified that all the best jokes will be revealed and I won’t be able to enjoy the film. I sit in anticipation of the punchline in the cinema. As the build up progresses I half expect half the audience to blurt out said zinger. Too often, I’ve been in a packed screening and what’s supposed to be the money line from the script doesn’t get the wave of laughs hoped. Instead it’s gets a silent hush as everyone already knew what was coming ten minutes before, this is a big shame.
There have been some things done in the past that have tried to amend this problem including creating jokes separate from the film. Or doing a little short skit like Monsters Inc to introduce the tone and characters but not the killer lines.
Often though, comedies don’t have this luxury and they must surrender their best lines for the sake of getting their audience. In some cases though the film will be good enough so we forget this and in context, the jokes are given extra depth. This doesn’t happen as much as we’d like though.
Audiences these days are so attuned to comedy beats that these films have to be so original that they catch out their viewers. You have to be very smart or audiences and critics alike will find you out and make you pay. People surely no longer will stand for movies that machine gun the audience with swearing and star cameos and shocks. Trying and attract the lowest common denominator, shoving a load of predictable unfunny lines onto the screen and adding very outdated film references, not that I’m pointing fingers at Scary Movie 5 here, it’s just Inception was three years ago…