When Movie Trailers Tell Too Much

movie screen

This weekend, my husband and I went to see a movie ("Philomena" — wonderful!) and ended up seeing five in a row.

Oh, they weren't actually called movies. The technical term is "trailers." But since they seemed to divulge every single shocking twist, surprise cameo, heart-rending moment and hilarious punch line, we feel we saved ourselves about $50 each. After all, now we don't have to see any of these films.

Even though now we sort of want to.

And that's the whole problem with trailers. They cram in so many of the highlights they can overwhelm you with delight (and explosions). It's like eating the chef's special tasting menu. Do you really want to eat an entire meal after 57 delicious — and/or exploding — appetizers?

"For me, it takes away the enjoyment," says Paul Cram, an actor in indie movies (often a drug addict; he's wiry). His biggest beef remains the trailer for the 1999 Ashley Judd movie, "Double Jeopardy." A stunning revelation changes everything — unless you saw the trailer, at which point it changes nothing, except how much you want to strangle the trailer editor.

"I really think that movie would have blown away the box office had they not shown the biggest plot point of the whole movie in the trailer," says Cram. "What's the point of seeing a mystery if you already know everything?"

Good question. That's why, in a survey of 1,000 moviegoers, the market research firm YouGov found that 49 percent feel that trailers "give away too many of a movie's best scenes."
"A perfect example is 'Life of Pi,'" says Mark Bialczak, movie reviewer for Syracuse New Times.

The film's trailer showed a certain animal (NOT a tiger) doing something that was completely thrilling ... the first time you saw it. Which was in the trailer.

Commenters writing to his blog complained about similar travesties, including the trailer for the movie "Sideways" that featured a fight scene that created one of the biggest U-turns of the whole plot. "Knowing the end of that story line before walking into the theater is RIDICULOUS," wrote Steven T. Winston, "and shows ZERO respect for the writers/directors of the work being promoted." Not to mention the moviegoers.

Winston harks back to the days of "Alien," when all you knew from the trailer was that in space, no one could hear you scream. What were you screaming about? Who couldn't hear you? That was left to the greatest trailer of all, the one you screen in your mind when your imagination gets going.

"Yo, Luke. I'm your father." That's the kind of trailer we're seeing now. "Dorothy, you had a bad dream." "We'll always have Paris, even though you're going to go off and live with your boring husband instead of me, Rick, here in Casablanca."

The trailer-makers have forgotten (or are tasked with forgetting) that when it comes to getting us excited, more is often less — and always has been. Cram, the actor, put it best: "Shouldn't a good trailer be like flirting with someone new? But often it's like the trailer just takes off its pants and underwear and starts twerking."

That's when you close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and start singing the alphabet song.
Which, come to think of it, works if and when your first date starts twerking, too.

Lenore Skenazy is the author of "Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)" and "Who's the Blonde That Married What's-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can't Remember Right Now." To find out more about Lenore Skenazy (lskenazy@yahoo.com) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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