Greg Mottola has had a decent career in Hollywood. Making his break in 1996 with Daytrippers, he’s gone on to become a reliable comedic director, particularly on television where he helmed a half-dozen episodes of “Undeclared,” the follow-up to “Freaks and Geeks” and a handful of “Arrested Development” episodes. IN recent years he directed a few episodes of the Lisa Kudrow Showtime vehicle “The Comeback” and some episodes of the HBO dramady “The Newsroom.”
What might be surprising is that he’s only directed five feature films over the last 20 years, with four of those coming in the last 10. So with his latest movie, Keeping Up With the Joneses, hitting theaters this weekend it’s a good time to look back at the one-sheets that have helped sell his previous efforts to fans.
1996 – The Daytrippers
This story about a wacky family road trip to confront the potentially cheating husband of Eliza (Hope Davis) sets up character and the setting – the back of the family wagon – pretty well. Davis is seen along with Liev Schreiber and Parker Posey all mashed into the back of the car, looking like they’re engaged in some kind of conversation. The skyline of New York City is seen in the rear-view mirror. “One station wagon. Two generations. Three couples. Four relationships.” is the copy just above the title treatment. There’s nothing particularly comedic about the image. In fact with the cast that’s shown it looks like one of any number of mid-90s indie movies from up-and-coming writer/directors like Whit Stallman and others, the kind of movie that will involve endless conversations about the minutia of life.
2007 – Superbad
By this time Mottola had made a name for himself, at least in the industry, as a capable and proficient comedic director. So it makes sense that the poster for Superbad gives off more of an overt comedic vibe, even if it is just Jonah Hill and Michael Cera standing there, looking at the camera like a couple of clueless doofuses. The title treatment along with the wardrobe on the actors gives the movie kind of a throwback feel, looking like it could have come from – or at least that it might be set in – the 1970s. Interestingly, Mottola’s name doesn’t appear anywhere on the one-sheet, with the credits at the top touting the movie as coming from the guys who brought us The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Talladega Nights. That’s Judd Apatow, of course, who was a more formidable and well-known name at the time.
2009 – Adventureland
At least Mottola’s are the credits that are used on the poster for this movie, which follows the romance and slacking adventures of a group of local carnival employees. The cast, including Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, are arrayed in the flying V formation that’s common to ensemble movies, walking straight toward the camera with various expressions on their faces, the Ferris Wheel and other attractions visible in the background. As I hinted at, this one is tagged as coming “From the director of Superbad” so that movie’s success was at least given him some additional recognition, even if it wasn’t enough to have his actual name included. The studio apparently decided to sell this at least in part as a stoner comedy, which is why the tagline below the title reads “Long hours. Low pay. Hight times.”
2011 – Paul
Apparently Adventureland’s lack of blockbuster success had Mottola demoted when it came time to promote Paul. The movie follows characters played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as they travel to Area 51, a trip that’s complicated when they pick up Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), an alien who’s trying to avoid the government agents hunting him. The poster, though, avoids most all of that, just showing Paul with a bunch of nouns describing who he is. The actors’ names are only placed above the title and there’s no mention anywhere of who directed it or its other comedic credentials.
It’s so interesting and unfortunate the way Mottola has been put in the background when it comes to the print campaigns for his own movies. In fact the only two where he’s given even a modicum of credit are the two he wrote himself, Daytrippers and Adventureland. While he’s well known among fans of film and comedies in particular he hasn’t risen to the status of being a household name, at least not enough of one to warrant inclusion on the one-sheets. But anyone who’s been following comedy for the last two decades knows who he is and what his directorial powers are, making him a recognizable brand to those in the know, who are hopefully telling all their friends about his talents.