How we react and behave in high pressure situations defines us to a great extent. There are varying degrees of what can be considered “high pressure” that range from periods of great stress that last months or even years to just a few moments that carry high stakes for ourselves and those around us. It’s whether we have the steely resolve to get through those situations that can decide whether we come out the other side a better person or if we come out of them at all.
The new movie 30 Minutes or Less is about just such a situation. Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a slacker pizza delivery dude with an ordinary life that he is blissfully happy with because it entails almost no responsibility. One day he’s kidnapped by a couple of hicks (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson) and told he needs to rob a bank or the bomb they’ve strapped to his chest will go off. Panicking, Nick enlists his friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) to help him carry out the robbery.
The movie, while not based directly on these events, is loosely similar to the real story of a man who was blackmailed into robbing a bank for another party with a bomb strapped to his chest. But the real story has a much more tragic ending as the guy died when the blackmailers detonated the bomb.
A pair of posters were the first ones released here, with one side showing Eisenberg and Aziz in their ski masks and the other side showing a couple of nameless and faceless guys wearing gorilla masks like they do in the first trailer. It’s alright but it’s going to come off as a little confusing, I think, for anyone who hasn’t already see that trailer since the two leads aren’t recognizable unless you know it’s them and there’s no context for the guys in gorilla masks.
The later theatrical poster wasn’t exactly what you’d call inspired. It simply shows Eisenberg and Aziz looking a little shell-shocked and nervous in front while McBride and Swardson are in the back clearly in control of the situation and looking quite cocky. It’s not the most artistic design in the world but it shows off who’s in the movie and that’s the major hook here so it’s hard to fault them based on pure practicality.
The first trailer, a red-band edition, starts out by introducing us to the two friends who are having a moment of falling out due to one’s actions with the other’s sister. When Nick goes later on to deliver the pizza he’s tasked with he finds himself set upon by two guys in gorilla masks who are intent not to let him go. When he is released it’s with a bomb strapped to his chest and the mandate to go rob a bank. So he goes to enlist Chet’s help and the two set about trying to execute on that plan. Of course hijinks and wackiness ensue since they’re not professional bank robbers and they’re not really getting along at the moment.
It’s a pretty funny trailer because the red-band freedoms are just used for language purposes and not to show off every crude or semi-crude moment that the movie contains. There’s still the bullet points of a story conveyed here. And as funny as Aziz is, Eisenberg actually might be funnier because he isn’t asked to do quite as much mugging to the camera.
Shortly thereafter a green-band version was released that was essentially the same trailer only with the language and other objectionable bits.
The next trailer went back to red-band land so all sorts of foul language was thrown back in. This time, though, the trailer focused much more on the overall plot and not just on selling the movie as some sort of slacker comedy. We see how the plot to have a pizza delivery driver rob the bank is hatched by the two redneck idiots and some of how they factor into the rest of the movie as well, a much larger perceived role than had been previously shown. There’s still plenty of antics from the two friends who are forced into the heist and, as I said, more of the story itself is shown so this is a good (for all intents and purposes) second entry into the trailer category.
It should be noted that the trailer ends not by promoting the movie’s official website or Facebook page or anything but instead a Twitter hashtag – #dontblowit that people should presumably use when discussing the movie. That’s interesting and all and certainly makes it clear what level of audience is being targeted by the studio, though you have to remember that anyone who uses unnecessary hashtags is ultimately going to “the special hell” reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theater.
Again, an all-ages version of this trailer was released shortly after the restricted one that showed many of the same scenes and jokes, only with the most offensive bits removed.
The official website loads with a list of options to choose from right off the bat. You can watch one of the Trailers, play a game or check out a couple of the movie’s social networking profiles.
The site’s navigation is laid out as if it’s a neighborhood map and when you mouse-over each area you see a location from the film and are prompted to share your visit there with your Facebook friends, something that’s so granular it’s hard to really comprehend.
The first section is “About the Film” and has a Synopsis as well as Cast and Filmmakers sections, though those just have a picture of each actor in the Cast area and just a list of those who worked on making it in the Filmmakers area. So it’s not exactly overflowing with content.
There’s just the one Trailer in the “Trailers” section, not even links to the restricted ones or any mention of them. “Downloads” has Wallpapers, Twitter Skins and Buddy Icons that echo the first poster key art. Finally the “Photo Gallery” has just 10 stills from the film with a couple behind the scenes shots mixed in.
The movie’s Facebook page has lots of updates with clips and promotional videos from the movie as well as additions to the official site and more. There’s also photos and an emphasis on asking people to pick their favorite quotes from the trailers. The Twitter feed has similar updates as well as information about some out-of-home promotions that were run in the weeks leading up to release. There was also a Tumblr blog setup that contains some video clips and lots of GIFs of scenes from the trailers that either the studio has created or which have been reblogged from others.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There was an innovative promotion with check-in service Foursquare that awarded movie-themed badges when people checked in at places like pizza shops and banks among others. Once someone earned the badge they were open to getting promos from local movie theaters and were entered into sweepstakes awarding a $3,000 prize.
Some TV spots were created that obviously played down the raunch and language in the movie but which still conveyed the extreme circumstances that are in the story but which are played comically. The emphasis here is still on all four of the primary cast members, especially Eisenberg and McBride.
Media and Publicity
One of the first publicity plays for the movie would be during the hipster-teen targeting MTV Movie Awards this year. There a new clip from the movie was shown to the TV audience in an attempt to get the young audience for that show interested.
Then came news the movie would be screening at 2011 Comic-Con since apparently it was felt the geek crowd there would overlap significantly with the people likely to find this sort of slacker comedy funny.
The fact that there are similarities between the movie’s story and a similar real life incident resulted in stories (AP, 8/7/11) about how the family of the victim in that case weren’t interested at all in the movie and naturally found it distasteful.
The trailers are, in my opinion, the strongest component of this particular campaign. That’s because they most clearly show the kind of movie that’s being sold, with the other components coming up short in various areas. The posters aren’t really able to convey anything beyond the presence of the certain actors that the audience might find amusing to watch. And the website, very surprisingly, doesn’t include anything about the age-restricted material that’s part of the campaign. I’m really shocked by that since there’s not even a mention of it outside of one prompt on the very front page, which sends people over to Facebook.
It’s obviously selling the movie to the same crowd that came out for movies like Pineapple Express but I’m not sure there’s enough of an emphasis on certain components of the story to fully appeal to that audience. It’s a decent enough campaign but it kind of comes off as a middling effort that doesn’t quite commit to one extreme to the other and I wonder how that’s going to come off to various parts of the moviegoing public.