MOVIE MARKETING MADNESS: WICKER PARK

There’s no good reason I can give as to why I am reviewing the campaign for “Wicker Park”. There really isn’t. It looks horrible. However, in reviewing this weeks releases, it was either “Wicker Park”, “The Cookout” or “Vanity Fair”. Since I have a long brewing dislike for both Queen Latifah and Reese Witherspoon I went for the one named after a neighborhood in Chicago. Hardly scientific, but it didn’t result in any self-mutilation which is a good thing.

Anyway, Josh Harnett stars in some sort of psychological drama involving mistaken identities and ill-advised romances. How is it Hartnett has a career? Is he really considered a “movie star”? The guy got his start in Halloween: H20 and went on to Pearl Harbor and 40 Days and 40 Nights? When you can’t act to begin with and then go on to prove it in a succession of crappy films it’s time for the authorities to get involved.

The Trailer

This plays out as a mix of “Fatal Attraction” and “Vertigo”. Hartnett never lets a single emotion other than complete and utter apathy enter his eyes as we see him fall in love, lose the girl and then get involved in some sort of crusade to figure out who or what may be causing all sorts of confusion in his life.

There’s very little original here. In addition to the previous movies mentioned there are also quite a few stylistic allusions to “Single White Female”, “What Lies Beneath” and “Dead Again”. If they had actually included Hartnett going to consult Robin Williams in the freezer of a grocery store I’d have a little more respect for the movie but they don’t. “Karmically, self-defense is quite cool.”

The Poster

There’s more tripping down memory lane with a poster that unfortunately reminds me of the Cindy Crawford and Stephen Baldwin classic “Fair Game”. Rose Byrne looks on as Hartnett has sex with Diane Kruger. I’m trying to figure out why they used a typeface for the title that looks like those little stickers with letters on them but really can’t think of any. The style of the movie title in the trailer and poster should reflect the overall attitude of the movie. Since the Wicker Park location seems to play some central role in the film why not use a style more reminiscent of a park entrance or something?

The Website

Everything about “Wicker Park”’s site just reeks of a movie MGM is trying to get off the shelves in the Demilitarized Zone between the summer blockbusters and late fall Oscar-bait.

Here’s what I think the “Synopsis” portion of the website is: The description used by the filmmakers when pitching the idea to a studio. There’s no other reason I can think of that a movie which supposedly relies on character development and interaction would have a two-sentence description. This feeling is backed-up when the “Production Notes” section of the site has a description of the film which is about five or six paragraphs long, all of which seem to say the same thing.

The “Gallery” contains about ten still pictures from the film. “Cast & Crew” has surprisingly in-depth filmographies of the main players and crew members. The “Trailer” section actually contains instructions on the care and feeding of sea turtles, which I thought was an odd choice of content for a movie website but, being a marine biologist by trade, I was none the less fascinated.

The PR and Marketing department padded their billable hours by creating what appears to be blazingly obviously fake content for the “Message Board”. There are a couple leaps of logic that I’m not sure anyone would make to believe these messages are from real people: 1) So many people care about this movie and really identify with the themes of it; 2) They would take the time to register and post comments here when they could be downloading the latest Ashlee Simpson song off Kazaa and 3) People such as those are actually allowed near electrical equipment by their own hospital’s version of Nurse Ratched. I can’t make those leaps.

Finally the “Soundtrack” area lets you view the playlist of the record and wonder aloud who the hell some of these bands are. There is a link to the site for the soundtrack’s label where you can preview one of those songs or, of course, “Buy Now!”.

Overall

As I said above, this looks like MGM is clearing storage space and dumping this film where hopefully few people (such as those studios interested in buying MGM Studios) will notice. Everything is unoriginal and uninspired. They are hoping that the presence of Josh Hartnett will bring in some young women who will, in turn, bring in their boyfriends, but I don’t see this campaign actually trying to appeal to anyone. The trailer is confusing, the website does nothing to clear anything up and the poster, meant to be erotic, comes off, instead, as goofy.

As moviemaking costs increase, the pressure to successfully market those movies becomes greater. In an attempt to show how marketers are trying to put the most hinders in the theater seats, Chris Thilk breaks down why some movie campaigns work and some don’t. The posters for “The Rocketeer” and “Unforgiven” remain two of his all-time favorites. For Chris’ ongoing movie journal and other various musings, visit his Random Thoughts blog.


Posted on September 2, 2004 in Features by

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