I have a rule.
There are plenty of reasons why I won't go to see Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star, which opens today in your fancier cineplices. The tag line ("There are no small actors. Just small parts.") is a penis joke. The poster banks on us finding a moron with bad dress sense, worse hair and his pants down by his ankles hilarious. Adam Sandler is listed as a writer. It looks, on the whole, to be simply awful.
But there is one reason that stands above all the others as why I refuse to see it, and it is because of a rule I have. That rule is this: I don't trust any movie with an ad campaign featuring footage that has been filmed exclusively for the commercial or trailer.
And there it is, right there in the TV ads: a screamingly unfunny "Dr. Dante" (Sandler pal Peter Dante, who also appears in Bucky Larson) urging us to see the movie in between clips that do little to bolster his case. If Bucky Larson didn't look terrible enough on its own (and boy, does it ever), that would be enough right there to keep me away.
"But surely, Marc," I am pretending you are saying, "it would be a different story entirely had Dr. Dante made you laugh. You would be interested in seeing that movie, I suspect!" Ah, but there is the twist. The quality of the ad-specific performance doesn't matter. The fact that it exists at all is enough of a red flag.
Why would it matter? Think of the signal sent by movies withheld from reviewers until opening day: If the studio had faith in the product, why won't they let people see it? Similarly, when a trailer or ad campaign resorts to coming up with its own material, it more or less announces to the world that of the 80+ minutes of footage in the movie, there were not two minutes (or even 30 seconds) that the marketing department felt good about presenting to the public on their own. Having taken a look at the movie handed to them, they basically said, "Nooooo, let's give it a shot ourselves."
And so we end up with trailers like the one from Toys, which is nothing more than a solid minute of Robin Williams doing typical Robin Williams schtick that's almost entirely disconnected from the movie itself. (The television commercial intercuts it with actual bits from the movie, which still doesn't excuse it.) The Love Guru keeps it to a relative minimum, dispensing with Mike Myers doing his trailer-specific act after 20 seconds, but it's enough to sound the alarm.
Then there's the case of Comedian, the 2002 documentary following Jerry Seinfeld as he rebuilds his standup act from scratch after retiring his old material, as well as Orny Adams, a hungry young comic potentially on the rise. The trailer (which references the movie it's ostensibly promoting in a single throwaway line) is notable for two reasons. It is, taken on its own, a fairly brilliant short film: funny, sharp and eye-opening about the voiceover clichés that we'd been taking for granted. It also happens to be built entirely around something that the movie itself - an intriguing but ultimately frustrating jumble that resembles raw, unedited footage more than a finished film - desperately could have used: a narrator.
And so, having been burned far too often, it simply doesn't matter whether I find specially-shot promo material funny or not, well-done or not. Sure, it didn't help that I gawked in horror at Dr. Dante, one idiot-man braying at me to spend time with another idiot-man. But as soon as he showed up, my mind was made up not to see Bucky Larson.
Because I have a rule.