In this year of "anti-politics," with candidates attempting to distance themselves from the "system," get ready for the cinematic offshoot: a studio-made trailer poking fun at movie hype.
In a 1-minute, 37-second teaser designed to follow other more conventional previews, a blond, bow-tied Robin Williams takes potshots at the footage that preceded it. "I don't know about you, but that last trailer . . . I've seen it--fast cutting, big music . . . ya ta ta ta ta," observes the actor, standing in a Washington state wheat field he jokingly describes as "the world's largest soundstage, at 20th Century Fox."
Adopting a barrage of different styles, he plugs Barry Levinson's upcoming "Toys" in pseudo-Japanese, in Schwarzenegger-speak ("I'll be back . . . wind me"), as Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in Levinson's "Rain Man" ("Raymond . . . do you like toys?" "Yeah") and as a South-Central gangbanger in "Toyz N the Hood."
A clever marketing approach, say industry insiders: milking the stand-up appeal of Williams, as well as the popularity of previous films. Forty of the teasers were sent to theaters in New York and Los Angeles last weekend, and about 5,000 will be in theaters by Labor Day.
"Toys", which Levinson wrote 10 years ago with his ex-wife Valerie Curtin, also stars Robin Wright, Joan Cusack and LL Cool J in the story of a whimsical toymaker (Williams) who must save his father's toy factory from the clutches of his demented uncle (Michael Gambon). It is scheduled for release on Dec. 18. "Studio execs, in their great insight, said you've got a movie about toys. When's a good time to release it? Rosh Hashanah? No, Christmas . . . WOW! Beats the hell out of Groundhog Day," says Williams.
Joe Roth, chairman of 20th Century Fox Film Corp, maintains the studio's tack was more practical than philosophical. "Some people are calling it an 'anti-trailer,' but we just figured we had everything to gain by putting Robin Williams out there," he says, "letting people know that he's coming out in his first pure comedy since 'Good Morning Vietnam'--same director, same time of the year."
Studio executives initially feared that trailer, shot by Levinson himself, was too "inside," with more appeal to the industry than to the public-at-large. Not so, says Greg Rutkowski, vice president, West operations, for AMC Theaters. "We played it in Century City over the weekend and the response was fantastic," he says. "People were laughing so much it was hard to hear the dialogue. It's very clever."
One Paramount executive--watching his "Pet Sematary" trailer play prior to the "Toys" teaser in one Westwood theater--expressed some (presumably) good-natured displeasure to the studio types alongside him. It's a feeling Roth knows only too well. A few weeks ago, he was in a Chicago theater playing the Williams spot at the studio's request. When the teaser came on, it followed the trailer for the martial-arts film "Rapid Fire"--distributed by Fox.
"You have no control over it," Roth says ruefully. "The teaser appears to be discussing the trailer as an art form. Everyone is convinced that we're singling out their picture but the targets are random--whatever precedes it, by chance. We ended up poking fun at our own movie. It was rather ironic."