Movie Marketing Madness: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

lemonymmm01story“Jim Carrey should avoid wearing outlandish makeup.”

This was my second thought after coming out of watching Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (my first was kind of hazy seeing as how I was vomiting blood at the time). I felt the makeup diminished the one quality – his elastic face – Carrey had that made him moderately entertaining.

Carrey is arguably one of the biggest stars in the current age of cinema so the campaign for “Lemony Snicket” would be wise to put him upfront in any and all materials. To not do so would leave the strength of the books to fall back on. Considering the informal poll I took in my office showed people were aware of the books, but had no idea what they were about showed just how weak this approach would be and I don’t expect Carrey’s face to be off-screen for more than a couple seconds at a time.

The Poster

Yeah, the theatrical version has Jim Carrey there, but overall I don’t think this is a very strong poster. There is no madcap-glee to it. No sense of a skewed sense of humor or wacky sensibility to it. Instead it looks like Jim Carrey’s neck and limbs are oddly out of whack and need to be re-set.

The teaser versions are much stronger as they actually keep Carrey off camera or at least present him in profile. They hint at the oddball nature of the movie more than Carrey with a weird beard does.

The Trailer

The teaser and theatrical versions share about 50% of their material and each give Carrey three credits, each in a different one of his disguises in the film. Sorry, Jim, but you’re no Peter Sellers. They are obviously going for a feel reminiscent of pre-Planet of the Apes Tim Burton or “Addams Family” era Barry Sonnenfeld (who is a producer on this film). The cartoonish trees, overly dramatic characters and such pulled me right back into my favorite parts of Edward Scissorhands or “Beetlejuice”. Even the score by Thomas Newman feels like he cribbed Danny Elfman’s songbook.

The Website

In case you have tried to do some writing lately and found that you couldn’t find any adjectives to use, it’s because they are all here. Everything on the site, from the section titles to the text in various areas is “extraordinary”, “unfortunate”, “unlucky”, “shady”, so on and so forth. Cute idea at first, but if you spend more than 20 minutes here it gets old rather fast. Navigation of the site is pretty easy but there are still plenty of rabbit-trails to get lost down. Unlike the site for Harry Potter, though, you never quite get lost or need to cut off your own hand after getting stuck under a rock.

The site opens with a cool intro that plays like the beginning of a movie and sets up the main characters. The rest of the site is divided into three main parts, the first of which is “Villainous Film Details”. There’s a surprising plethora of information here, including a Synopsis, Behind the Scenes and Production Notes.

Also here are Catastrophic Clips (a trailer), Shadowy Stills (still photo gallery of about two dozen images), Dubious Cast and Crew, Disastrous Downloads (including wallpaper and icons), The Snicket Report (registration for an email update newsletter), Unsound Soundtrack (track listing with clips of about five available to listen to) and finally Partners (listing of promotional partners).

I want to talk about this for a minute since, according to press reports, the duck from the AFLAC commercials will be appearing in the movie. Product placement is nothing new (watch “Back to the Future II” and take a drink every time you see a corporate name/logo), but to put a spokesperson in a film takes that a step further. Imagine Joe Isuzu in “Days of Thunder”? The tie-in makes sense (insurance company in a movie about accidents and such), but to actually have the duck in the movie risks the credibility of not only this movie but the entire industry.

The “Desk of Lemony Snicket” (who is voiced by Jude Law, who went a whole week without a new movie opening, a record for 2004) contains brief character descriptions. More detailed character sketches can be found in “Shady Characters”.

There is a whole section, indeed a whole different site, dedicated to Count Olaf. Going there you will find more wallpapers, icons, IPIX, a game and even Olaf’s blog which is painfully forced and drastically unfunny. (Dammit! Even I’m using too many adjectives!) The separate site is setup as an Olaf for President campaign site, which is a good idea but is now a bit dated since we’re on the other side of the Tribulati… I mean the election.

Olaf’s blog has been promoted as “Blog of Note” on Blogger’s hompage quite a bit recently. Interestingly, though, they don’t identify it as a paid placement and Blogger isn’t listed in the promotional partners roll call. Full disclosure, folks, that’s all I’m asking for.

Overall

As I stated, anyone not familiar with the resoundingly popular books will need to parasitically latch onto Jim Carrey’s easily recognizable face in order to be drawn to this enticing movie. The quirky trailers play him up and the theatrical poster accomplishes this none-too-difficult task. The website is fun and amusingly whimsical. I can’t say that as a Lemony Snicket neophyte I’m completely sold. Now if I can only knock off with the damn adjectives.

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