Now that I’m taking things easy and publishing at my own pace, I no longer have to rush to print. That means I don’t have to make the trek to LA to catch a screening, which saves me roughly six hours, gas, and wear and tear on my car. (If you’re wondering about the math, that’s two hours to LA, two hours to watch, and two hours home.) Instead, I’ll drive to my local theater and pay to watch the movie when it’s convenient for me. Sure, it’s less clicks on my site, but I’m saving four hours, and time is one of the few resources you can never make up. One of the tradeoffs, however, is that I now have to sit through movie previews, and I’m reminded of why I always try to avoid them: They give away too much.
I recently saw the trailer for Keeping Up with the Joneses, and this is just another example in a long list of “long” previews that basically reveal the entire movie. The premise is straightforward: A suburban mom rekindles excitement in her ordinary life by spying on her new neighbors, the Joneses, who seem too perfect not to be hiding dark secrets. In the process, she drags her well-meaning, but bumbling husband along, and together they discover that the Joneses are professional spies who have been surveilling them back for recruitment. The Burbs meets Mr. & Mrs. Smith meets True Lies.
So how do you promote this film? To answer that question, we need to know what the majority of the film is about. From this trailer, my guess is that the movie is about snooping on neighbors. If that’s the case, then all we need is a minute-thirty of Isla Fisher and Zach Galifianakis hiding in bushes, peering over fences, and getting into similar hijinks. Throw in a couple of interior shots showing off the spy tech in the Joneses’ house to tease that there really is more to them than meets the eye, and you have a compelling trailer.
Instead, every major plot point is revealed as well as enough context to make sense of it all.
That’s basically the entire movie minus the ending and the boring parts.
It’s easy enough to fill in the blanks and construct the rest of the movie. Take the dressing room scene as an example. From the trailer we see Gal Gadot explaining to Isla Fisher that she was leaving a voicemail for her husband, which is what she does when trying on lingerie. From the exchange and Gal’s demeanor we can extrapolate most of this scene. No doubt Isla had followed Gal into the dressing room, heard her saying something to someone in one of the changing stalls (probably something naughty), thought Gal’s secret was that she was cheating on her husband and having a tryst in the stall, gave away her position by gasping or something, which prompts Gal to come out and confront Isla. I wouldn’t be surprised if this scene was an extended comedic bit with Isla making shocked faces as Gal ramped up the dirty talk. Viewers are going to naturally perform this same unconscious mental exercise.
Consider the popularity of Vine. At their core, Vines are stories told in seven seconds. The viewer’s mind fills in the blanks. Here’s a favorite:
People are being trained to form opinions and make decisions on increasingly incomplete information. A two-minute-thirty movie trailer might as well be a feature-length film.
I understand why the marketing departments do this; they’re effective. Someone has coldly crunched the numbers and calculated the bottom line that probably shows the following: 1. The majority of moviegoers will still watch a film despite a trailer spoiling much of the plot. 2. There is a significant amount of ticket buyers who will leave negative reviews because they had different expectations about the film, so these long trailers that reveal basically everything will appeal to this segment. Ultimately, this problem won’t get solved until a dip in revenue is attributed to these long trailers, which is going to be hard to prove. And until then, captive audiences who arrive early at movie theaters to get good seats will just have to shut their eyes and stick their fingers in their ears.
I’ll leave you on this low note. This preview is even more egregious, giving away everything up to the very moment where the protagonist either succeeds or fails. Is there any reason to even watch this film anymore?