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FILM CLIPS

A look inside Hollywood and the movies : They're Cute, They're Stars, They're Rated R!

August 01, 1993|CLAUDIA ELLER

Twentieth Century Fox's upcoming fall release "The Good Son" is headlined by two of Hollywood's hottest kid stars--Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood. And yet young moviegoing fans can't see their screen idols this time around because the movie--which will be released this fall--is rated R.

Nor for that matter, could Macaulay or Elijah, theoretically speaking, even buy a ticket to their own movie without being accompanied by mom and/or dad or some adult guardian.

This poses some interesting marketing questions for Fox, which has to sell adults on a movie driven by two kid stars--both of whom have only played lovable characters. Can the rambunctious-but-sweet "Home Alone" star pull off a super-evil child in "The Good Son"?

Fox seems to think so.

In fact, it made a study of some past adult films that starred children such as "The Omen," "The Exorcist" and "Village of the Damned," all of which were successful. (They all had supernatural elements that "The Good Son" doesn't have.)

While the studio is still formulating its campaign for the picture--which opens in September--it recently completed a 71-second teaser trailer aimed at establishing the movie as an adult psychological suspense thriller and Culkin as the evil lead.

The trailer--which begins playing in theaters this weekend attached to Fox's murder-mystery "Rising Sun" and was widely disseminated to the entertainment press--is prefaced with the R rating and the line, "From the director of 'Sleeping With the Enemy,' " who is Joe Ruben.

Andrea Jaffe, Fox's president of domestic marketing, says the thrust and intention of the teaser campaign is to "get people used to seeing Mac in a way they've never seen him before."

Jaffe added, "It's very important to get the right audience (the target is 18-to-24-year-olds). Our job is to make the audience understand this is not a movie for children, even though it stars two young actors."

She insists that "everyone knew from day one--from the script stage--that the movie was going to be R-rated."

There is also an early movie poster in the works, which Jaffe said will be "a big photo of an innocent, smiling Mac, with the tag line " 'Evil has many faces': 'The Good Son.' " Though the film's tone and content is reminiscent of Mervyn LeRoy's 1956 classic "The Bad Seed," which starred Patty McCormack as the malicious child who causes the death of several people, Fox production president Tom Jacobson said "The Good Son" is in no way based on that movie ("It's a completely different story"). The original screenplay is by Ian McEwan.

The story is about a 12-year-old boy (Wood) who goes to live with his aunt and uncle after his mother's death and comes under the influence of his malevolent cousin (Culkin), who he suspects is evil and potentially murderous.

Jaffe doesn't believe "Good Son" will be a tough sell: "It's going to be so much fun to sell because it's a shocking, unique film. To have this genre of adult film and have the focal point be two young boys is what's going to make it different."

The studio is not yet locked into its full media campaign plan or marketing budget, but you can be sure Fox will spare no expense: "We consider this to be a major motion picture release, opening in a time period where (films of this genre) have traditionally had a great deal of financial success (i.e. "Fatal Attraction") and we want to be competitive with any film in the marketplace at that time."

The movie was test-screened twice in the past month, once in Los Angeles, and again in northern New Jersey. The audience response was so positive that Fox told Ruben he could lock the movie and a third planned screening in L.A. was canceled, according to Fox executive vice president Tom Sherak.

"We screened it twice and the picture played very strongly across the boards," said Sherak, adding, "The movie had people talking to the screen, responding to what they saw. And the ending is the most amazing and shocking thing you've ever seen in a movie. People will be talking about this at cocktail parties.

Referring to it as a "Hitchcockian-type thriller," Sherak said, "It's a very classy movie in the same vein as 'Sleeping With the Enemy,'--a thriller that had people sitting on the edge of their seats."

Fox should be so lucky with "The Good Son" as it was with "Sleeping," which quietly grossed over $100 million in the U.S. and Canada alone.

While "The Good Son" won't be finished with postproduction and delivered until Sept. 8, Fox is planning special previews for early September. The tentative release date is Sept. 24, according to Sherak.

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