We watch a lot of movie trailers here at ScreenCrave, and, as we inch closer to summer with its ever-increasing torrent of new films, we’re seeing more and more previews with each passing day. As we do so, we can’t help but notice some similarities, repetitions, and clichés among them. Here at Trailer Park, we’ll be offering a rundown of those clichés, where they come from, and which trailers share them. For our first installment, we’ll be breaking down one of summer’s most ever-present previews: The Romantic Comedy Trailer.
In the spectrum of movie trailers, the romantic comedy falls somewhere between ‘predictable’ and ‘annoying’. It’s like editors everywhere got together and decided that they would purposely deliver trailers with dumb sex jokes and pratfalls. Last week we brought you 10 Clichés of the Superhero Movie Trailer, now it’s time to list 10 movie trailer techniques we see overused (to the point of abuse) in RomCom trailers.
10. The Freeze Frame
Used in: The Apartment (1960), The Switch (2010), Going The Distance (2010), When In Rome (2010), The Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past (2009), Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001), The Holiday (2006), Something Borrowed (2011)
Unless Steven Soderbergh directed a romcom, freeze frames have no business in these trailers. At times freeze frames can look cool, like in Going The Distance, where we are being introduced to a character, but in most cases they are simply unnecessary. In the Bridget Jones’ Diary trailer, for example, there’s only two freeze frames (of Bridget’s butt), one right after the other. The freeze frames feel out of place and confusing. Why are there only two during the whole trailer? What was the purpose of it? Simply put, freeze frames are a trailer cliché that need to disappear.
As Seen In: Going The Distance
9. The Elevator Scene
Used In: Pretty Woman (1990), Friends With Kids (2012), Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (2012), How Do You Know (2010), 500 Days Of Summer (2009), It’s Complicated (2009), Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001), Big (1988)
One of the most recent memorable ‘elevator scenes’ in a trailer is in 500 Days of Summer, when Zooey Deschanel makes an impression on Joseph Gordon Levitt by liking his taste in music, then casually exists the elevator. The thing about romantic comedies is that they give off this extremely unrealistic idea that people not only meet in elevators, but fall in love in them. In the case of Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, the elevator is used as a way to showcase Steve Carell‘s awful life, which can be just as annoying.
As Seen In: Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World
8. The Embarrassing/Awkward Moment When Someone Is Naked
Used in: No Strings Attached (2011), Knocked Up (2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), The Wedding Date (2005), The Proposal (2009), Love And Other Drugs (2010), It’s Complicated (2009), He’s Just Not That Into You (2009), Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)
The problem with this cliché isn’t that it’s not funny – seeing Ryan Gosling put his junk in front of Steve Carell’s face was quite amusing, even in the trailer – but that it gives away a perfectly funny moment that would have made you laugh harder had you seen it at the theater instead of the trailer first. Sure, you’ll still laugh when you see it in the theater, but it won’t be the same. The second time around it’ll be more of a cue, telling you it’s okay to laugh.
As Seen In: Crazy, Stupid, Love.
7. The Toast
Used in: How Do You Know (2010), Love And Other Drugs (2010), It’s Complicated (2009), 27 Dresses (2008), Love Actually (2003), Failure To Launch (2006), Just Married (2003), Friends With Kids (2012), No Strings Attached (2011), Groundhog Day (1993)
Couples are always toasting their ‘self-destructive’ plans. In the case of Friends With Kids, the couple is toasting their plan to have a baby while staying friends, which we know never works, sort of like this cliché.
As Seen In: Friends With Kids
6. The Slap Across The Face
Used in: Groundhog Day (1993), New Year’s Eve (2011), Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011), Friends With Benefits (2011), Confessions Of A Shopaholic (2009), The Proposal (2009), 27 Dresses (2008), Definitely, Maybe (2008), Moonstruck (1987)
In romcom trailers, men getting slapped is equivalent to women falling. If there’s a slap in the script, it’s bound to make it into the trailer. Sometimes it works like in the case of Groundhog Day or Crazy, Stupid, Love. where there are several slaps one right after the other, but other times like in the New Year’s Eve trailer, it’s neither funny or useful.
As Seen In: Groundhog Day
5. Romantic + Popular Tunes
Used In: All romantic comedy trailers seem to have a popular and romantic tune
These are the songs that will make you roll your eyes, cover your ears and make you want to run out of the theater, or if you’re at home, put the TV on mute. The music is begging to get a reaction out of you, begging you to like it and decide that you will go see this movie.
As Heard In: 50 First Dates
4. The Lineup Of Famous Actors
Used In: New Year’s Eve (2011), Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011), Something Borrowed (2011), P.S. I Love You (2007), Just Married (2003), Failure To Launch (2006), Valentine’s Day (2010), The Wedding Date (2005), 50 First Dates (2004), Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001), The Holiday (2006), Love Actually (2003), Overboard (1987), Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961), Annie Hall (1977)
Well, this only works if the actors are well-known. Hey look, I know that this is a marketing tool used to lure people in into seeing an otherwise ridiculous movie, but why must it happen every time? We always see the actor laughing, like they’re telling us, “Hey I’m having a good time, come watch me!” This is a desperate attempt to sell tickets, and what I take away from a trailer like that is that the story isn’t very good and that’s why they had to throw a bunch of famous actors together. If you look carefully, the best trailers don’t do this. It’s cheap.
As Seen In: What To Expect When You’re Expecting
3. Overused Phrases like “Meet”, “This Is”, or “That’s Me”
Used In: The Wedding Planner (2001), What’s Your Number? (2011), Love And Other Drugs (2010), Going The Distance (2010), When In Rome (2010), The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009), The Proposal (2009), It’s Complicated (2009), Knocked Up (2007), Two Weeks Notice (2003), Me, Myself & Irene (2000)
Sometimes when the love story is so complex and confusing, there are phrases like ‘Meet’, ‘This Is’, ‘That’s Me’, and ‘She’s About To Meet’ to clear things up. The best remedy for this is to write a good love story that won’t leave the viewer scratching his/her head. Also, it can spoil a lot of the movie.
As Seen/Heard In: It’s Complicated
2. The Post-Title Card Final Joke/Catch Phrase
Used In: P.S. I Love You (2007), Never Been Kissed (1999), Made of Honor (2008), Did You Hear About The Morgans? (2009), The Wedding Date (2005), How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days (2003), Serendipidy (2001), Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011), Wanderlust (2012), What To Expect When You’re Expecting (2012), The Five-Year Engagement (2012)
This last bit is to remind you, just in case you forgot during that brief period with the title card, that this is a funny movie. Sometimes it’ll be a catch phrase, other times it’ll be a somewhat funny scene. By now, I think we’re programmed to expect something after the title card, especially in comedies.
As Seen In: The Five-Year Engagement
1. Women Falling or Crying or Just Being The Clumsiest Creatures on Earth
Used In: Nearly all romantic comedy trailers.
There are very few trailers that don’t follow this cliché of showing women falling, crying or getting whacked by a door (and it seems like those are the trailers that are based on better romantic comedies like 500 Days of Summer and Beginners). And clumsy women aren’t just a cliché of romantic comedy trailers, but most modern romantic comedies. The pratfalls of the female character have become a staple in romcom trailers, despite how unfunny they may be.
As Seen In: Never Been Kissed
The bottom line is that when a trailer is overcrowded by clichés, then the whole movie is bound to be the same way.
What are some of the clichés you see? And which do you think should disappear?