I have a four-year-old daughter, which means I saw "Monsters Vs. Aliens" ... or at least part of it. I'll admit I thought there could be something I would enjoy in the film, but it just wasn't funny. In fact, my daughter, who loves movies of all sorts (she used to really love "Kill Bill Vol. 1"), asked to leave about a half hour or so before the movie ended. It was giving her a headache (we saw the 2D version), and she just didn't like it. I complied.
It seems this movie is yet another example of marketing vs entertainment/art.
Blame "Star Wars" for all the Happy Meal toys, cups, microwavable meals, backpacks, action figures, shampoo and so on. That movie started a machine that has not stopped rolling since. Not even an ailing economy can keep it down. But what are the pitfalls?
Obviously this is an issue when it comes to children's movies. The products, for the most part, are geared toward children and are directly linked to movies the studios want them to see. By releasing the products before the movie hits theatres, the studios create a sense of excitement for a film. It doesn't matter if the film is good or not, the kids want the toys/meals/accesories before they even plop their ass down in the dark theatre. It's a win-win for everyone on the money end. If the movie sucks, they all still got their money. The only losers in this are the children who end up disliking a movie and are now stuck with things they may no longer want.
Of course, no parent has to buy these things without seeing the movie first, but as anyone who has a kid knows, that isn't exactly fun or easy. (Can you imagine, however, what would happened if the latest animated film were marketed just right and kids all wanted the Dr. Fingerlord toy from Burger King and his character turned out to be a serial rapist in a movie that critics would call "far too adult for children"?) The smart course is to wait until the kids see the movie to see if they'll enjoy all the other stuff.
And then again, toys are toys and kids will often like them regardless of the movie's quality.
Story has taken a back seat to product, though, and since it's Hollywood nobody can be surprised. This will help teach astute children about advertising's pervasive techniques, and will hopefully open up discussion with their equally astute parents ... or not. Either way, the smart money is on this little rule of thumb: The more the movie is marketed, the less substantial it is.
-Doug Brunell (America's Favorite Son)