Whatever else you have to say about the decade, the 1980s really were the golden age of the buddy cop movie. 48 Hours, the first two Lethal Weapon entries and many others really set the bar for movies featuring two mis-matched cops – one often a grizzled veteran and the other a loose cannon – who overcome their different approaches to the job to bring down some sort of case that’s bigger than anyone expected. Some were better than others and by the time the calendar flipped over to the 90s the genre was ripe for parody, with Loaded Weapon 1 being one of the first out of the gate.
Movies in this vein took a bit of a hiatus in the 00s. Not that there weren’t movies like this made but they weren’t as notable as they were 20 years prior and certainly weren’t breaking new ground like those earlier films were. But now the genre is seeing a brief resurgence in the first year of this decade, albeit a resurgence that comes not in the form of parody but with a self-aware hipness to them that makes them not straight entries either. Instead they seem to be movies that aim to be part of the genre while also playing with the conventions of that genre so that the audience is laughing at the inside jokes as much as it is enjoying the film on its own merits.
The latest movie in this mini-revitalization is The Other Guys. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star as partners in the New York City Police Department who don’t exactly have a harmonious relationship. Ferrell’s character is a buttoned-down financial investigator while Wahlberg is a more traditional cop who is constantly embarrassed by his partner’s behavior. The two, along with everyone else in the precinct, live in the shadow of two high-profile cops (Samuel L. Jackson and The Rock) who get into all sorts of adventures and receive all manner of accolades. But one day an otherwise hum-drum case leads our heroes into something much bigger, something that might bring them the same level of stardom as their co-workers.
The first poster that was publicly released was a motion poster that sounds more like what you would expect out of a full digital signage installation than a traditional one-sheet. The motion poster debuted at 2010 ShoWest and had Ferrell and Wahlberg jumping out toward the audience ready for action, only Ferrell loses his gun which results in Wahlberg expressing his frustration with his partner and his antics.
A later static version of the teaser poster would take a similar image – Ferrell and Wahlberg flying through the air with guns pulled and legs kicked out – but obviously without the interaction between the two. Unfortunately this image sans the comedic payoff that was contained in the motion poster comes across as kind of disjointed. The audience can assume that it’s a comedy but a shot like this without any sort of tongue-in-cheek copy that makes the comedic elements clear means it’s just that, an assumption. I think it’s fine that they went with the same image but without any supporting copy it can lead to the belief that Ferrell is branching out into action flicks now.
The first – and only – trailer for the movie begins with what looks like the worst cliche of the buddy cop movie genre: The Rock and Samuel L. Jackson play a pair of reckless cops who engage in high-speed chases and do indiscriminate damage in their pursuit of the bad guys, only to enter the station to rapturous applause and adoration. It’s then that we meet the true focus of the movie, the unwilling partners played by Ferrell and Wahlberg, with the latter having a hard time accepting the former is a real cop.
The comedy, then, comes from Ferrell’s character being put in a series of weird situations, ranging from an impromptu board room gun fight to a misunderstanding about whether it’s “good cop/bad cop” or “bad cop/bad cop” or an inability to successfully stop someone from jumping out of a building. There’s also a funny scene where Wahlberg can’t believe Eva Mendes is Ferrell’s wife and, because Ferrell is often funniest with long strings of implausible dialogue, a long string of implausible dialogue about how Hollywood has lied about the after-effects of being close to an explosion.
The movie’s official website doesn’t offer much on the landing page other than the usual invitations to register for updates, share the page on a social network of your choosing and such. There are links to watch the trailer or vote for your city (more on that later) but that’s about it.
Once you Enter the Site you’ll see more content, with the first section being “About the Film.” The first thing there is Story, which reads much like the trailer in that it first introduces the two bad-ass cops that the main characters in this movie aren’t. The Cast section is odd in that it features no information about the actors, just a couple of soundbite quotes from their dialogue in the movie. The Crew section is even less substantial and is just a list of the directing, writing and producing credits.
“Video” just brings up the trailer but once it’s over you can choose to play it again or view the premiere poll video related to the contest below. “Photos” has about 11 stills from the movie and “Downloads” is where you can grab some Wallpapers, Twitter Skins or IM Icons.
There are a bunch of crime-related games to play in the “Cadet Academy” section. Then there’s the “Twitter Game” that promises to send out a new tip to help you interrogate your friends every day and encourages people to use a hashtag when they do so.
The movie’s Facebook page is a good mix of updates on its various publicity activities and new marketing materials, including the TV spots that were released in the last couple weeks before release. The page also featured a contest encouraging people to vote for the major city closest to them to be the site of “The Other Premiere,” a second premiere event taking place in a non-Hollywood location.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A number of TV spots aired that were basically shorter versions of the trailer and which spent much of their running time focusing on Ferrell acting like a buffoon, which admittedly is one of the movie’s biggest selling points.
There were also some online ad units created that used the same basic art as the posters, with Ferrell and Wahlberg leaping out at each other, with different units featuring either a static image or video clips from the movie. The same poster artwork was used in outdoor ads on billboards and buses.
Nothing that I’ve seen on the cross-promotional front.
Media and Publicity
Of course one of the early stories about the movie (Los Angeles Times, 4/9/10) drew the inevitable comparison to Cop Out, the Kevin Smith-directed cop comedy from a few months ago that, interesting, was the original cop comedy project that Ferrell and Wahlberg were attached to before creative differences had them leaving that and starting fresh.
Some of the press coverage about the movie included stories on the rigorous physical demands (New York Times, 4/30/10) Wahlberg endured to make his role – which included a scene that required him to gain 30 pounds and then quickly lose it for reshoots – what it is.
The cast also made a brief appearance at Comic-Con 2010 (Los Angeles Times, 7/23/10) with a panel presentation that quickly turned hostile toward the gathered attendees, though obviously with tongue firmly in cheek.
Wahlberg also got a Walk of Fame star in advance of the movie as part of the publicity effort.
Not a bad campaign, but as with many of the movies this summer it seems to be counting on a lot of work being accomplished by the TV spots which have been in rotation and other advertising. Only one poster, only one trailer and a website that seems lackluster at best mean there doesn’t seem to be a full-throated effort here outside of that advertising.
What there is is good enough – as I mentioned before Ferrell is certainly being positioned as the main draw here while Wahlberg is in the more reactive role and what’s shown in the trailers and TV spots is pretty funny. Even the motion poster is amusing.
So the campaign gets decent marks for selling the movie effectively but the curve is off here because there’s not a lot of components to the campaign that are available to convey that message to the audience.