Movie Marketing Madness: Your Highness

Maybe it’s just that I’ve been more aware of it in recent years, but there seems to have been a drastic upswing in the number of movies being made simply because a group of friends seem to find that doing so is a neat way to hang out together and have a good time. The Oceans 11, 12 and 13 films, those directed by Christopher Guest, 98% of movies starring or featuring Vince Vaughn since 1995 and so on are all good examples of this. That’s not to say there haven’t been some great films to come out of this, just that when most of us hang out with our friends we don’t have several million dollars with which to finance our whims.

A film that’s certainly a part of that trend is Your Highness. Starring James Franco, Danny McBride, Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel and directed by David Gordon Green the movie is a comedy adventure that follows Fabious (Franco) as he goes to rescue his fiancee Belladonna (Deschanel) from the clutches of an evil wizard. Pushed to prove himself as something more than a useless layabout Thadeous (McBride) joins his brother on his quest and along the way they meet the fiercely independent warrior Isabel (Portman), who also joins them and becomes the object of Thadeous’ lust.

While the story may not sound all that interesting or original it’s really beside the point. The actual purpose of the film is to give Franco, McBride and Green an opportunity to make some drug jokes, get Natalie Portman to put on a leather thong and otherwise mess around while the cameras roll.

The Posters

The movie’s first poster is pretty standard and largely uninspired. Franco, McBride and Portman are all just standing there in a variety of action poses, with McBride looking slightly befuddled and comic while the other two appear more serious. The top of the poster makes the case for the movie by pointing out it comes from the director of Pineapple Express, which also featured McBride and Franco, while the copy at the bottom does the work of selling the movie as a comedy by intoning “Get your quest on.” It’s not a bad one-sheet, it’s just not all the original or interesting.

After that a series of three character posters were released, one each for Franco, Portman and McBride. The one with McBride has him basically looking like Snoop Dogg or something, with a big tacky gold necklace that has the film’s title on it and a big waft of smoke coming out of his mouth. His also labels him as the movie’s title (“Danny McBride is…Your Highness) while the one-sheets for Portman and Franco give character attributes. So Portman “…is Might Fine” (though it should actually be “is Mighty Sidboob) and Franco “…is Mighty Brave.”

The Trailers

The first trailer that appeared was an extended – it ran about a minute longer than usual – red-band version. The spot starts out by introducing us to the two brothers, who could not be more different from each other in terms of attitude and dedication. When Franco’s bride to be gets taken away by a wizard the two much embark on a quest to save her before her honor is besmirched. Along the way they join forces with Portman’s archer, and encounter various magical dangers along the way, including a weird three-headed monster.

The trailer is full of material that helps it earn its age-restricted status. That includes multiple swear words, some graphic sexual references and a scene of the two brothers sharing some pipe weed, so to speak, with a mysterious Yoda-like creature at the end.

It’s also really funny, showing Franco and McBride have some great comic chemistry together and all the offensive bits at least seem well thought out and well written as opposed to just dropped in for shock-value sake. The last minute or so plays it as more of a straight action flick but overall it comes off as very funny.

A green-band version was released a bit later that kept the overall form intact but was shorter and, obviously, contained less objectionable material. Many of the setups are still there but there are alternate lines substituted in some places and noticeable edits made in others that took out anything that might require an age gate. One thing was added – and most everyone picked up on this immediately – in the form of more clothing on Portman’s backside in the scene where McBride is checking her out while she’s bathing in the river.

This all-ages version comes off being not quite as funny as the red-band version but still works pretty well and still promises plenty of ridiculous action and humor.

Later on just a few weeks before the movie was scheduled to hit theaters another red-band trailer was released. This one did away with all but the barest threads of plot. Instead it’s more jokes involving drug-induced hallucinations, the utter rejection of McBride’s character by Portman’s, more than a few bare breasts and such. It’s funny and alright but after the first two trailers it feels rather slight, like it was just tacked on here at the end to make sure everyone knew this movie was going to be outrageous.

Online

The splash page on the movie’s official website has a whole bunch of stuff for you to do right off the bat. There’s an invitation to watch the restricted trailers, win either a trip to Ireland or $10 in movie cash, upload a photo of yourself using the “Immortalize Thyself” feature, hear thoughts from Howard Stern or play the “Let’s Quest Mother f#@*r!s” game, which is kind of fun. There’s also a “The Story” synopsis as well as a “Trailer” and “Gallery” here right on the front page.

“The Story” is also the first section of content in the menu after you do go ahead and Enter the Site. There you’ll find a synopsis as well as the option to download Production Notes if you so choose. “Cast & Filmmakers” has information on those involved in the making of the movie.

There are about two dozen stills from the movie as well as a couple behind-the-scenes shots in the “Gallery” while the “Videos” section has all the trailers as well as some TV spots for the movie. There are Wallpapers, Twitter Skins and Buddy Icons to grab in the “Downloads” section.

Each section has a different character who you can learn more about, or you can go back to the front page and click one of them to view their D&D-like statistics and information about who they are. Each of these profiles also has downloads and video that are specific to that character.

The movie’s Facebook page brings over some of the features from the main site in addition to having the usual selection of photos, videos and other information.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There was quite a bit of online advertising done, most of which involved in some way the “Demand It” tool from Eventful. So the poster art for the movie was used as part of the ad with the prompt for the audience to “Demand” it be brought to their area. I’m honestly not sure what sort of release pattern the movie was getting that it needed fan demand to bring it to certain areas so this seemed more like a buzz-building tool for the college-aged audience than anything else.

In addition to that there were plenty of TV spots that were created and run. Most of them took one particular aspect of the trailer (and movie, presumably) and focused on that. So there was one that was all about Portman’s sex appeal and the flirting between her character and McBride’s. There were some that played up the more medicinal aspects of the story and some that were more about the banter between Franco and McBride. They’re all pretty good but do all have the same basic look and feel the trailers so if you don’t like those you likely won’t like these.

Media and Publicity

Aside from the release of the marketing materials, the first wave of publicity for the movie kicked off with a profile of McBride (USA Today, 12/20/10) that had the actor talking about how he went about co-writing the movie and how he made some edits to the script to make sure he didn’t have to do any more stuntwork than was absolutely necessary.

Overall

This is one of those “Does it really matter what the campaign did or didn’t do?” situations. Not because of the sheer size of the campaign, which is often the case with movies like Iron Man and Harry Potter and things like that. But because it’s not as if there’s actually a movie being sold here. Instead it’s a night out with some ridiculous humor as its central draw. So fans of Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder will be all over this but anyone who’s outside that group likely hasn’t been paying attention at all. The marketing is funny enough and I think *does* work but, again, mostly to those who are already predisposed to liking this genre of buddy movies that have very little effort put into them.

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