Monday Morning Critic – Bigger, Stronger, Faster*, 21 Jump Street And The Comedy Trailer Effect

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

The more I look at the commercials and trailers for 21 Jump Street the more I’m completely losing interest in the film. It’s odd, especially considering it’s been getting strong buzz so far, but I don’t think it’s a matter of it being something wrong with the film.

Far from it, actually.

Some of the best comedies of the past 10 years have had some of the worst trailers. The one for 40 Year Old Virgin was unimpressive, as was the one for Knocked Up and a handful of other top comedies of the past decade. Superbad had a notoriously bad one to start with as well. And a number of films that appeared to fairly good have had good trailers but led to indifferent films. And I think there’s a reason for it.

I call it the Great Comedy Film Effect.

When you put together a trailer you want to give people just enough to get them in the door but not enough to ruin the whole thing. It’s an essential tool when you’re selling entertainment; you want to give people just enough of a taste to get in the door but not enough to drown them. It’s kind of like dealing drugs in a way; you want to give someone else just enough cocaine to make them want more but not enough to kill them. You want them to take that little snippet of cocaine that you’ve given them and make them want to buy a whole bunch more on a regular basis.

A film is a similar product in a way and the trailer is the starter kit. You have to show enough to get people to want to see a film but you can’t give away everything good in the film. And the better a film is generally the worse the trailer is when it comes to comedy; it’s a weird oddity I think.

When you have plenty of material to choose from it’s much more difficult to choose what to include and what not to. And thus I think a trailer is almost intentionally made poorly in that regard; it’s much easier to take the few good bits from a bad comedy ala I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell in a trailer as a selling point instead of a plethora of good bits from a better film. It’s in how you sell it I suppose.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Bigger, Strong Faster*

One of the best documentaries of the first decade of this century was one of the least watched: Bigger, Stronger, Faster*. Directed by Chris Bell and focusing on his exploration of steroid culture through his eyes as well as through the perspectives of his two brothers. The feature focuses on steroids from Bell’s perspective as he discusses his own past as well as that of his siblings. Like many of us gym rats between the ages of 25-45, he was inspired by the same muscle culture inspired by ‘80s film.

As Bell goes into iconic moments of the ‘80s, including Ivan Drago juicing up in Rocky 4 against the clean living of Rocky Balboa, it was a moment that years later is kind of comical. Like Schwarzenegger leading the first President Bush’s war against steroids in the ‘80s as well; Arnold may have been a lot of things but he was juiced to the gills as a bodybuilder and his legendary physique was aided by a pharmacy as well.

It’s the one thing that inspired me to pick up a weight when I was a kid as well; the whole film is amusing for me because all of these particular moments bodybuilders, fitness models, actors and people involving in the weight-lifting/bodybuilding game are guys who were inspired for the same exact reasons as I was. We all wanted to get big and spend hours upon hours in the gym for the same reasons.

Bell does something really difficult to do as well with the film: he doesn’t go into the sort of pontificating about steroids that most people do about the subject. It’s the thing I appreciated the most; steroids have a very poor image, much like recreational drugs do, because we went so overboard during the ‘80s in how we treated steroids in terms of after school specials, etc.

A lot of the same things that Bell points out about myths like “roid rage” and whatnot are similar points I’ve always made. I’m not someone who endorses steroids, of course, but I’ve done enough research over the years to get past the demonization of them that often happens with the drugs themselves. And Bell allows those against steroids in any facet into the equation as well; this isn’t a pro or anti steroid opinion piece. It’s a guy trying to get all the facts from both sides in order to make a logical, informed decision about the subject.

Bell’s documentary is one of the most exhaustive looks at steroids because it doesn’t just toe the line of “steroids are bad mmkay” that others have. It gives a real in depth exploration to an issue that comes up constantly in sport as well as in terms of personal usage as well.

Strongest recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

21 Jump Street – A movie version of the crappy ‘80s television show about adults going undercover as high school students.

See It – So far the early buzz has been that this is a film that has great chemistry between its leads and is fairly clever. While the trailers and TV spots make me want to strangle someone, sometimes a film can be good despite horrible advertisements. See: Into the Wild.

Casa De Mi Padre – Will Ferrell is a cowboy in a telenovela. In limited release

See It – Will Ferrell can be brilliant at times and rancid at others. This looks like a brilliant moment.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home – The Duplass brothers return as Jason Segel and Ed Harris are brothers in a wacky day. In limited release.

See It – Team Duplass is generally good for making an enjoyable film every time out. Never anything brilliant but always worth a viewing; it’s kind of the downside of finding a groove as a writer/director combination on the micro budget indie scene. They have a certain level they can rise to but they don’t have that next gear upwards.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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