Comedy troupes – or teams of any sort – seem to be a dying breed. Where once the comedy world was dominated by the Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, Hope & Crosby and other formal groups, that eventually gave way to the rise of stand-ups and other solo comedians. There’s a resurgence of the “troupe” idea to some extent, even if it is informal in how Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Jason Bateman, Will Ferrell and others are always teaming up with each other.
One of the only real troupes around nowadays is Broken Lizard. After some modest acclaim the group broke into the mainstream in 2002 with the release of Super Troopers, an immensely quotable and absolutely hysterical film. They followed that up with Club Dread and then with Beerfest, which is almost as good as Supertroopers.
The Broken Lizard boys are back in 2009 with their new movie The Slammin’ Salmon. The members of the troupe play employees of a high-end fish restaurant that’s owned by a former heavyweight boxing champ played by Michael Clarke Duncan. Of course, as is common in the Lizard’s films, the place is more or less a shambles behind the scenes, with the staff barely containing their hostility or apathy toward the customers and the boss being a well-meaning but utterly off-kilter individual who blusters through life while just trying to manage the chaos his employees cause.
Just one poster was produced here, but it’s pretty good. Featuring the entire Lizard gang plus Duncan, it communicates not only the setting of the movie – a fish restaurant – but also the attitude with all the looks on the cast’s faces and the fact that they’re all looking dubious about the goings-on around them. At the top it’s promoted, smartly, as coming from the creators of Super Troopers and Beerfest, the troupe’s most popular movies to date. And then they get their own brand reinforcement just above the title treatment, with Broken Lizard labeled as presenting this movie.
It’s simple but it works.
The first trailer that was released quite early this year, just shortly after it’s debut at Slamdance (more on that later) was a red-band spot that was not only quite funny but also gave a pretty good look at the movie’s story, which is that the owner has challenged the staff to increase their efficiency with a prize of $10,000 to the top selling waiter.
It’s clear here that we’re dealing with a complete egomaniac in the restaurant’s owner and a staff that’s clearly borderline incompetent, certainly not a group of people who you would willingly put in a customer service position. They’re seen muttering under their breath at customers, shoving a whole fish down someone’s throat (while not wearing any pants) and having to quickly cover for swearing at someone who just wants some tea. And that’s not to mention what goes on in the kitchen, where one person eats a brownie that contains a customer’s engagement ring, fights break out and other mayhem ensues.
The fact that it’s a red-band trailer means they get to include a few cuss words and such but even without that it communicates well to the audience what the movie’s about and what they can expect from it.
The later green-band trailer was released shortly after the film was finally picked up for distribution. It’s not all that different either in content or structure from the original one, just with a few words or scenes removed to make it acceptable for all audiences. It’s still funny so that doesn’t matter a whole heck of a lot and there are a few new bits of footage included.
The official website for the movie brings you into the restaurant setting with a recreation of a component of the film’s poster art – the five guys – up front and center. The trailer plays on a pair of flat-screen TVs behind the bar in the background, which is actually quite a cool way to display that, especially since clicking those screens will take you to a full version of the trailer.
The site’s full content is available either through an image of a restaurant menu off to the side of the screen or a more traditional site menu at the bottom.
The first section is “Trailer & Clips,” which as of this writing just has the trailer and no additional material. “Photo Gallery” has just five production stills, most of which are shots from the trailers we’ve seen.
“About the Film” has, first, a nice Synopsis of the movie’s plot and story, information on The Cast and a Press Kit you candownload as a Zip fille. There’s also links to the movie’s social network profiles, but we’ll get to those later. “Downloads” just has a few sizes of Wallpapers for you to grab.
Finally, there’s a game called “Slam the Salmon” that puts you in the kitchen of the restaurant and pits you against a fish wearing boxing gloves to see who the winner of that duel is going to be.
Moving back to those social networks, there are actually two Twitter feeds being promoted in conjunction with the movie. One that’s specific to the Slammin’ Salmon – @slamminmovie, and one that’s general for the Broken Lizard troupe, @brokenlizard. Where the movie one is all about the publicity that’s being doing for it, the Lizard feed is much more engaging and interesting since it includes updates about the tour the guys are on and includes some conversation with fans as well as re-tweets from the movie’s account.
A similar split is achieved on Facebook, with one for the gang generally and one for the movie specifically. And, like Twitter, each one works pretty well for what it’s trying to do.
The movie’s MySpace page is pretty dull, just a trailer some video clips and the poster.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing that I’ve seen on any front. I’m sure there may have been some online advertising done but if there was I didn’t see it and there almost certainly no TV commercials as well as no cross-promotions that I’ve come across or heard about.
Media and Publicity
Broken Lizard originally brought the movie to Slamdance 2009 and then SXSW, both of which generated a decent number of reviews and word-of-mouth around the film and its cast. But after that there was largely silence about the movie until Anchor Bay announced (Variety, 10/25/09) they would release the film in December.
Michael Clarke Duncan did a bit of publicity for the film close to its release, including a few TV appearances and other things such as judging an eating contest in Philadelphia. And the boys themselves have been on a national tour where they do stand-up bits and recreate some scenes from a couple of their movies.
While I’m routing for this film since I’m a big fan of the Broken Lizard gang’s other films, I’m not sure the campaign works, at least not completely, and I’m not entirely sure why. I really like the trailers and the poster and the website is alright but don’t feel the same about the rest of the campaign.
I’m not even sure it’s that I don’t think it works when it gets to the Advertising and Media sections, it’s that I’m just disappointed there isn’t more there since I want to see the film succeed. I want a more full-throated effort here and feel like the trailer, especially, is so strong that the other elements wind up feeling a tad weak.
But when it works it works and, while it took a while for the film to get to screens I’m hoping it will find enough of an audience to make it a success.