I’ve made very little effort to hide the fact that I think the current crop of comedians in movies might just rank among the best the movie industry has had to offer. I’ll put Will Ferrell, Jason Bateman, Steve Carell, Vince Vaughn, Paul Rudd, John C. Reilly, Owen and Luke Wilson, Michael Cera and the rest of the people who frequently appear in movies with them against, in their own way, rosters that include Bob Hope, Jack Benny, The Marx Bros. and a host of others from Hollywood’s golden age. Are the comedic stylings the same or even similar? Not a chance. But right now we’re enjoying a period with a handful of extremely funny leading men and a very, very strong bench of supporting players.
All that leads into the subject of this column, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. The movie is a mock biopic of one Dewey Cox, a singer whose life the movie tells even as it spoofs other biographical films like Ray and Walk the Line. Reilly stars as the title character, a man whose life is filled with tragedy, both accidental and of his own dumbass making.
There was only one poster created by Sony for the movie, but it pretty much told the audience exactly what it needed to know. Reilly stands, shirtless and with a look of bliss that can only be born of ignorance, in a very Jim Morrison as Lizard King type pose. So it’s easy to guess from the one-sheet that this is a comedy and that many of the laughs will come from Reilly’s character bouncing around the world completely oblivious to the impact he’s having on it.
The biggest component to the trailer, which is quite funny, is that it hits many of the same notes as most biographical films. From the tortured backstage posing to the meeting of other famous musicians to the washed-up mess years, the moments being parodied should be instantly familiar to anyone who’s been watching movies for the last several years.
Reilly is obviously having fun and in addition to everything else there’s a ton of sex gags, mostly involving co-star Jenna Fischer (Pam on “The Office”). So it positions the movie as something that should appeal to guys, mainly, who are likely going to be attracted to the sex jokes.
There’s also a lot of mention of producer Apatow’s past films, obviously trading on his current success to try and boost this movie’s chances for success. Superbad, Talladega Nights and Knocked Up all get name-dropped. It’s an obvious tactic but it’s also got decent odds of working.
There was also a red-band, R-rated trailer that contained a fair amount of the same jokes as well as some new ones, mostly revolving around more sex, a bit of drug use and some swear words. Just as funny as the first one, but for different reasons. But like other movies that have employed red-band trailers, this is meant to differentiate the movie for a more adult audience and make the movie more appealing to them.
Just like the Sweeney Todd site, the first thing on Walk Hard’s official website is a nod to the movie’s Golden Globe nominations. Below that is a gallery of video footage and pictures from some of the stops along the “Cox Across America” tour that had Reilly touring in character and performing songs from the movie.
Skipping over the entryway to the official site, there’s a link to a “Fan Site” for Dewey Cox. This is kind of hilarious. It’s setup like a fan site, albeit a very well designed one, and there you can download fan club certificates, order Cox bobble-heads, view bumper stickers and do a bunch of other stuff. It’s a fun site – the fan mail section is a riot – and adds a little something to the Cox mythology.
The next section down is “Watch Restricted Clips.” There you can view an age-restricted trailer, clips as well as the first 10 minutes of the movie.
Before diving into the actual site there is a button prompting “Facebook users click here.” Doing so brings you to a page with the movie’s trailer on it, a trailer that you can then click to have added to your Facebook profile. That’s all well and good, but as I originally noted, the most interesting part of that page is that there’s a brief survey asking you about the experience, probably as a gauge for future moves along these lines.
Just about a week before the movie’s release, Judd Apatow released a video on FunnyorDie that was so meta it’s not even funny. Actually, it is quite funny. It’s a clip of Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Justin Long and Craig Robinson sitting around playing Rock Band and then engaging in an off-the-cuff conversation about how funny Walk Hard is. Everything is fine until Robinson realizes he’s unwittingly participating in “some viral marketing bu****it” and chases Apatow around the office.
OK, so finally diving into the site’s main content. The site’s navigation is based around a collection of images from the film. Mousing over any of those pictures brings up the title of that section and from there you can click through to that section’s content.
“About the Film” is the first section, containing a two paragraph Synopsis and…nothing else. There are sections for Cast & Crew and Production Notes, but both of those areas are still labeled as “Coming Soon,” which is a tad disappointing when we’re less than 24 hours (when I’m writing this) from the movie actually showing on theater screens. That same content can be found under “Clips,” which is kind of weird.
The one time a movie site labels a section “Trailer” it’s not actually accurate. In most cases a section will be called “Videos” and just contain the trailer. But this is “Trailer” – singular – and contains a bunch of stuff. That includes the trailer, two TV Spots, three Clips and the Age Restricted Clips as well.
“Downloads” gives you the usual Buddy Icons, a Screensave and some Wallpapers. “Soundboard” is a collection of sound clips from the movie that you can either just listen to or download to your hard drive, which is kind of cool.
There’s a heavy emphasis on mobile content here, with two sections devoted to mobile. One is a link to some free downloads, two ringtones and one wallpaper. The other is to the PlayPhone.com site where you can use that site’s system to get some free – at least I think it’s free – downloads as well.
Finally, there’s another link to RockLikeCox, the fake fan site, as well as to the movie’s Facebook and MySpace pages. I also love the movie’s YouTube channel, featuring reflections by real life rock stars on the Cox legend.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The studio also partnered with Break.com, making a bunch of videos available for people to download and assemble into their own music video to win a Gibson Guitar and other merchandise.
It’s a good campaign but, despite the efforts to bring Dewey Cox off the screen and into the real world, I’m concerned that it spends so much time reminding people of Apatow’s other movies that the campaign doesn’t establish a strong enough brand identity for this movie in and of itself. Everything is geared toward reminding us what a good time we had watching Superbad that it doesn’t sell us the good time we could have watching Walk Hard.
I also kind of think there was so much effort put into the experiential aspect of the campaign that the trailers and other more traditional assets wound up being weaker than they otherwise could have been. But things like the screening/concert tour were a great idea and certainly, at least from what I’ve heard, worked at getting people interested in seeing the movie. So mission accomplished.