MOVIE MARKETING MADNESS: THE WEATHER MAN

“The Weather Man,” starring Nicolas Cage and Michael Caine, should have (if my memory hasn’t been corrupted by far too many servings of Southern Comfort over the years) come out about six months ago. Seems to me that there was a trailer released back in the early part of the year along with the poster but there was very little buzz being generated about it. Paramount, though, decided to pull it and push it out to the fall release season. If I’m remembering that correctly there are two likely explanations for the move.

First, the movie was deemed unmarketable. Since it’s about a sad-sack weather man (played by Cage) and how miserable his existence is until he discovers the power of family, the studio may have felt there just wasn’t enough material to pull together to create the illusion of a happy triumph-of-the-spirit type flick. The second is that the studio all of a sudden had an Oscar contender on its hands and, since Academy voters tend to only have three month-long memories, they decided to hold it until the fall. Personally I tend to lean towards the first one as being the more likely of the two since there’s nothing in the campaign that presents “The Weather Man” as anything but “The Family Man Part II.” But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Poster

Nicolas Cage appears with what at first appears to be the world’s largest single collection of bird shit on his overcoat. Once you watch the trailer, though, you realize it’s just a milkshake. I don’t think you can avoid the initial bird shit impression, though, and someone at the studio really should have thought about that. The expression on Cage’s face is designed to emphasize just how pathetic his character really is. I get the impression if you kicked him in the balls he’d barely notice and just go on about his day.

The Trailer

That feeling about kicking Cage in the balls? It’s only reinforced by the trailer. Now I’ve read a lot about how some very smart and informed movie commentators love this trailer and think Cage gives a great performance. Me? I wanted to vomit all over my computer screen. We see Cage as he goes about his day as a Chicago weather man (a job I don’t envy anyone since Chicago weather is about as reliable as my bowel movements. Have I shared too much?) and the trials he’s put through. People apparently blame him for the weather and so they through things at him, a cross he feels he must simply bear. In between insults he gets sage-like advice from Alfred Penny… I mean Michael Caine. After an appropriate amount of setup we then discover he can overcome his low self-esteem only through the power of his wife and daughter’s love. I think it was the ice skating scene that really brought the bile to the back of my throat. Watch at your own risk. I will not be held responsible for the onset of diabetes that may occur.

The Website

What a crappy website. Paramount apparently spent about two hours putting this together. Interestingly, the overall look of the site has not changed in the many months since it was first launched, back when the movie was supposed to be released.

Let’s start off with “About the Film.” Be prepared to spend about 15 seconds reading this three sentence synopsis of the movie as it details – as much as three sentences can – how much life sucks for Cage’s Dave Spritz.

Usually the section of the site that’s labeled “Characters” contains some sort of biography of the character. It’s a way for the filmmakers to give us a little background into who these people are before the movie opens so we can understand them a bit more. The “Characters” section on the Weather Man site, though, has a slideshow of pictures of each character. That’s it. If you click on the picture of Hope Davis, who plays Cage’s wife, you get a brief slideshow of images. What the hell is that supposed to do for us? It’s the equivalent of an animated photo gallery, so I think the “Characters” labeling is a bit misleading. Compounding the problem is that the acutal “Photo Gallery” contains mostly the same images.

Containing a bit more information is the “Cast and Filmmakers” section. There are biographies of all the major players, including director Gore Verbinski. There’s nothing original or, to be honest, interesting here. If you’ve read the IMDB entries for these folks you’re not going to be wowed by this stuff.

“Trailers and Clips” contains the Trailer and three Video Clips, as well as a Behind the Scenes clip. There are eight – a surprisingly large number for a drama – wallpapers, a screensaver and some AIM icons available under “Downloads.” “Production Notes” continues the overall theme of brevity on the site. There are ostensibly three sections to the content but it’s all presented in one scroll-down box of text and really doesn’t go into much detail into the making of the movie.

The one part of the site that has some promise is “Filmmaker’s Commentary.” You can watch a clip of the movie either on it’s own or with Verbinski’s musings on the clip. You know what this tells me? That he’s already recorded the commentary for the DVD release and they’re doing more to pimp that than they are the movie itself. After all, listening to director’s commentary is a DVD, not theatrical, experience. I’d expect to see something like this on the site after a few months when that DVD is close on the horizon and not before the movie has even been released into theaters. Finally, you can register for updates, a section which just proves studios still don’t get the whole concept of user-control.

Overall

Bland and uninspired for a movie that looks bland and uninspired. How many times are we going to have to watch someone be sad in their sucky life until they discover that the spouse and kids they’ve been ignoring hold the key to their redemption? And as a follow-up, how many times are we going to have to watch Nicolas Cage in that particular role? The trailer is awful. The poster, while not awful isn’t very otherwise interesting and the website downright blows. I’m not excited about this one.

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 Movie Marketing Madness blog.




Posted on October 27, 2005 in Features by
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