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Trailer Mix

TNR spoofs the spoilers
March 27, 2008

To generalize only a bit, movie trailers suck. When they’re not completely obscuring a film they’re meant to promote, disguising its plot and its purpose in a fog of cheesy music and even cheesier special effects, they’re summarizing the entire plot of a movie, rendering the actual watching of that movie almost pointless. Why buy the cow?

Props, then, to The New Republic’s Christopher Orr, who today Takes a Stand on behalf of those of us who have dutifully paid our $10.25 to sit in poly-blend-velvet seats for two hours, expecting to be excited/enlightened/amused by Cinema…only to feel, after those two hours expire, that we could have gotten the exact same experience, for less time and less money, from watching only the movie’s trailer. Today, Orr stands up on his table, whips out his placard, and, like Norma Rae for the movie-going public, speaks out against trailers-that-are-really-spoilers.

Well, actually, he writes out against them. In a turn of rhetorical dexterity, Orr reviews the to-be-released-tomorrow flick 21…based solely on its trailer:

So profound is my sense that the trailer (which I’ve seen several times) gives away the entire movie (which I haven’t yet seen at all) that I’m writing this review based solely on the former. (I used IMDb to get the characters’ names, but that’s about it for outside research.) I’ll catch a screening later to see how near or far from the mark I land, and will update this piece with an appropriate coda tomorrow. In the meantime, please note that any spoilers I may offer are entirely accidental.

Orr’s piece isn’t Maxim’s ReviewGate redux, but rather a commentary on the silliness of trailers in general. (To be fair, you could say that that silliness can be blamed as much on the films themselves as the trailers that advertise them—that their plots are already spoiled, in the one sense, before the trailers spoil them in the other. But trailers are the most immediate culprits in all the spoiling, and therefore fair game for mocking.) The joke is that Orr has produced what is, to all appearances, a Serious-Minded, 830-word review, complete with talk of production details, character development, and “moral perspective”—all predicated on the assumption that Orr’s review will hold up despite his having, you know, not watched the movie he’s reviewed. Here’s the conclusion of Orr’s meta-commentary:

How accurate was I? Was 21 better than advertised? Worse? Totally different? Did I fail to anticipate the climactic showdown on a submarine or the twist where an erotically entangled Ben and Jill are revealed to be brother and sister? I’ll post an update tomorrow after actually seeing the film.

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The irony, of course, is that he probably won’t need to.

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.