They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but we all know that’s bullshit.
Really, to save us time, the marketing for a book, or in this case, a movie, should understand the tone of their product and advertise to those that would appreciate it. Spy is a perfect example of a film that is nothing like it’s trailer.
I had no desire to see Spy, because it looked like Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 from the trailers and basically everything else. The poster shows McCarthy clad in a kitten sweater sliding across the floor. Another American out of water tale, where a usually overweight protagonist bumbles through the takedown of a major terrorist cell; A bland money grab where the punch line of the film is that the hero is fat.
But believe it or not, Spy rises above that stereotype. McCarthy’s character, Susan Cooper, is a capable and smart agent. In fact, within the first act Cooper shows that she’s not only a great marksman, but that she can throw her CIA trainers around the room like rag dolls. Of course, one wouldn’t know it from the trailer, considering the joke that it signs off with is McCarthy falling over in a scooter—it’s funny because she’s fat!
Spy is also rife with vaudevillian style comedy. Jason Statham and McCarthy are a regular Abbott and Costello, only the films subverts the usual and places Statham as the Costello. He may not be fat, but he’s certainly a bumbling idiot. In fact the subversion of “Fat=Stupid” continues throughout the film. All the pretty people in it are virtual dolts floating by while McCarthy and her boss back in Virginia are really the only capable individuals. The flip of the stereotype is refreshing, and it’s obvious that Statham is having fun with parodying the stoic badass that he’s famous for. It’s rare for him to play with comedic end of the spectrum, but when he does, he does it well.
The point of all this, is that all too often a great movie slips through the cracks because the studio targeted the wrong audience by focusing on the wrong footage, completely misrepresenting the movie. I get it, sometimes they have to lie to protect their investment and put asses in the seats. Something I found with Neighbours and Let’s be Cops, quintessential examples of a comedy where every good joke is in the trailer and the movie itself falls flat. But, the Spy trailer looked like a family friendly Happy Madison circle jerk, not a raunchy fast paced dialogue driven spy satyr. Instead of showing some of the great character moments, the trailer panders to morons with fat jokes.
Perhaps the guys editing the studio didn’t see the film, or perhaps the studio puts rigid constraints on the guys trying to put together the trailer, forcing them to follow a particular formula. Red Letter Media did a good job pointing out the blatant similarities between every blockbuster trailer to come out in recent years, and Comedies are no different. Lately they begin on a serious note and hit the audience with a surprise joke. Here’s a few examples: Spy, Paul Blart 2 or Mordecai. They also tend to have the music build up and then cut out just before the punchline. We’ve seen it done some many times before that our reflex response is to laugh, regardless of whether the joke is funny.
I’m not naive, movie-making by numbers isn’t a new problem to Hollywood, but it’s certainly getting worse. It’s gotten to the point where studios are trying so hard to make their film look like another more successful one, that any charm or originality is lost in the shuffle. You know, charm and originality, the stuff most people want in a movie.