I’ve been harsh in the past toward Adam Sandler, calling him drastically unfunny, a complete disaster and other such names that call into question his skills to entertain anything with an intelligence level above lobotomized sea urchins. That’s only because that’s how I feel after watching the few of his previous movies I’ve been subjected to over the years.
Perhaps that’s a bit unfair, but I’m also alright with that.
The latest film Sandler is bringing to us is You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. In it he plays a legendary counter-terrorism agent in the Israeli army who, after years of distinguished service, decides he wants to quit the army, move to the United States and begin a career as a hair stylist.
I’ll be honest with you and admit that, based on the campaign we’re about to look at in-depth, it actually seems to be kind of funny. I attribute that to the fact that for a change Sandler is playing a character and not just a variation on himself and his goofy frat boy persona, one that hasn’t evolved a great deal since Opera Man on “Saturday Night Live.”
Anyway, let’s look at his latest.
The first poster released by Sony set up the general theme of the movie’s campaign, with Sandler – looking outrageous in his over-styled hair – bursting out of the movie’s title treatment with a hair dryer pointed at the viewer like a gun. It’s an alright poster but kind of conveys the impression that this is a one joke movie whose one joke has already landed. There’s not much to it so there’s not much to comment on. It served the core purpose of a teaser poster, which is to announce to the general audience that Sandler has a new movie coming out, and does so well so there’s also little to complain about or crritique.
The theatrical poster that came later put an uncomfortable focus on Sandler’s…ummm…area. We basically get a buffalo shot of the star, who this time is sporting dual hair dryers as he wears a pair of shorts that are just disconcertingly short. I mean seriously, this is just specifically designed to induce a little bit of throwing up in mouths in a certain portion of the audience. Yeah, it’s meant to further convey the idea that Sandler is this super tough but super styling guy but I just can’t look at it for more than a few seconds before before my brain starts to shut down and I go fetal.
Finally, there was another poster that is best left uncommented on since it’s even more disturbing. This image would, though, be re-purposed in a number of outdoor and other ads.
The first and second trailer are kind of interchangable, varying only in a few details.
The first starts off with a brief introduction of who the Zohan is and the legend he is in the Israeli army, followed by his announcement that he’s going to the U.S. to pursue his dream. Then we get a whole series of scenes of him trying to fit in the New York City. We’re exposed to the two basic plot drivers, the first of which is the general one about a former intelligence officer with no training trying to break into the hair care industry. The second plot thread has a bunch of Middle East terrorists now living in NYC who recognize the Zohan and set out to kidnap him.
It’s that plot point that Tom said he found most amusing, but which has the unfortunate consequence of revealing that Rob Schneider is also in the movie, as he is in most of Sandler’s movies since the two of them seem to think the other is really funny. I don’t get it personally, since Scheider has the distinction of being even more unfunny to me than Sandler is on a regular basis.
I do have to admit, though, that the bit at the end where Sandler’s leg comes up at an impossible angle to kick the guy in the face was kind of funny. I know, I hate myself a little bit too. This scene almost single-handedly is why I think the movie might not be a total disaster.
Anyway, the second trailer winds up covering much of the same ground as the first. The main difference is in the opening, which shows more of Zohan in action and kicking terrorist hinder. The action is appropriately outsized, with him kickingn through brick walls and catching bullets in mid-air.
When you open the official website you’re immediately greeted with yet another image of Sandler’s crotch, an image that’s also been used on various ads and such that have been around and about. The only thing that exists before you enter the site is a link to a YouTube video of the movie’s red carpet premiere, which features interviews with the major players mixed in with some clips from the film, most of which are just taken from the trailers.
There are two paths you can take into various parts of the site’s content. The first is the top menu bar and it’s there where we’ll start.
The first stop on that is “Characters” where you’ll find information on four of the movie’s main characters. Click on any one of those and you’re taken to a page where you can view the dossier as well as access things like AIM icons that are specific to that character.
“Synopsis” is a basic recap of the movie’s story and the its credits. The synopsis itself is pretty short, in fact one of the least substantive I’ve come across anywhere lately. There are also a few audio clips of the “foot kicking” scene that you can hear by clicking the appropriate part of the page. Oddly, the exact same content is accessible under the “Cast” heading – apparently they couldn’t pop for any more biographies of the cast. Really strange – I actually thought the site was broken or something but nope, it’s the exact same stuff.
The title of the “Games” section is a tad misleading since there’s only one game there, a punching game that pits Zohan against the Phantom, his counterpart on the other side of the Palestinian conflict, played by John Turturro.
“Downloads” shows you all the AIM icons, wallpapers and screensavers you can download by character name. Click on anything and you’re actually taken back to the character page we visited earlier, with that particular item now popping up.
“Videos” and “Image Gallery” both take you to the same page since both of those areas are housed in the same place. There’s just one trailer that’s on the site though, and there’s a paltry seven or so stills in the gallery. Overall a very disappointing portion of the site.
There’s just one promotion under “Promotions,” an offer to enter to win a trip to WWE Summerslam 2008, something that may speak more to the movie’s target audience than any sort of in-depth research.
Finally, there are links to the movie’s MySpace and Facebook pages, though the MySpace page wasn’t loading for me. On the Facebook page there’s also a “Create Your Own Poster” tool that lets you add pictures of your friends on the site to the movie’s poster. Sony also added Zohan-specific action to the popular Hug Me application, which is pretty cool since, again, it’s better to add functionality to existing tools than try to build adoption of new ones that require changes in behavior.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
While there was a ton of advertising for this movie – bus-side and other outdoor posters have been pervasive throughout Chicago for over a month now and I’ve seen quite a few TV commercials – there were two things that specifically are worth mentioning.
The first is something Sony put in theaters in the form of a standee. That standee was designed with Sandler standing above an actual salon chair that people could sit in. The unit (not that kind of unit) was equipped with Bluetooth technology that allowed people to download six exclusive voicetones featuring dialogue from the movie directly to their mobile devices. The standees were placed in 25 Regal Cinemas around the country. You can see what one of those that popped up in Chicago looks like via Rachelle Bowden.
Also playing up the hairdresser theme was a deal with Paul Mitchell Salons that redesigned 10 of those salons across the country. Visitors to those salons could receive free haircuts and stylings as well as promotional swag for the movie. The timing of the free haircuts was done to work around local festivals and other events.
In terms of straight advertising the biggest splash the studio made was running a spot for the flick within the 2008 Super Bowl. The spot was just a rehashing of the trailer tha had already been released and worked on about the same levels.
This is an alright campaign that, while it doesn’t really have any low points, conversely also doesn’t have any high points. Everything is just kind of alright. The trailers are pretty funny in parts. The posters do a good job of conveying the movie’s basic selling points to the audience. Finally the site is a bit on the lackluster side, with a lot of duplication going on and not much in the way of depth.
Once again the campaign is more or less, like those for most of his movies, built around Sandler. It’s dependent, therefore, on the audience’s tolerance of him. As I stated earlier this one is a little different since he’s actually playing a character and not just himself, but if you’re predisposed to not like Sandler there’s not a whole lot this campaign is going to do to bring people around.