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Trailer of Tears 

The summer movie war leaves audiences crying in their seats

click to enlarge Dont worry, people of Earth  Tom Cruise is on his way.
  • Dont worry, people of Earth Tom Cruise is on his way.

Adam Sandler looks like Albert Brooks' older brother. Nicole Kidman should have known better. And Christian Bale plays Batman, not gay. Got that? NOT GAY!

click to enlarge 972d_film-17491.gif

Oh, the pratfalls and pitfalls of the latest movie trailers.

We all know the so-called summer movie season is as fake as everything else in Hollywood. That's because summer movies start bowing in spring, and if the moguls had their way, as early as the first winter blizzard (since summer ticket sales usually account for 40 percent of The Industry's annual revenue).

click to enlarge Wedding Crashers stars Vince Vaughn (left) and - Owen - Wilson. Tomfoolery is sure to follow.
  • Wedding Crashers stars Vince Vaughn (left) and Owen Wilson. Tomfoolery is sure to follow.

The only thing stopping the suits from ordering a rewrite of the annual calendar -- hey, these guys are so power-driven and delusional they think they can cue a full moon whenever they want one -- is that many of their films simply aren't ready any earlier. So what we have instead of wet prints are movie trailers (and, on the Internet, lots and lots of lots of movie trailers) to hint at which studio stupidos are about to involuntarily spend more time with their families.

In an insanely unscientific business that guesses wrong more often than it guesses right -- and given the lack of accurate alternative predictors -- trailers are as good an indicator of what is, and isn't, going to be a suckfest as, say, the quality of the craft services on a shoot. But a trailer is not only the public's first look at a picture, it's also the competition's first look as well.

click to enlarge Even the wiggling of Samanthas (Nicole Kidman, left, - with Will Ferrell) nose wont save Bewitched.
  • Even the wiggling of Samanthas (Nicole Kidman, left, with Will Ferrell) nose wont save Bewitched.

So it wasn't the one-two punch of Spielberg and Cruise that suddenly gave Fox fits about the upcoming War of the Worlds. (After all, it had the same combo in the underperforming Minority Report.) Rather, it was the "wow" factor of the WOTW trailer that made Fox push Fantastic Four off the same June 29 release date and back to July 8. Score one for DreamWorks/Paramount.

On the other hand, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory looked like a heavyweight since it had the buzzworthy Johnny Depp and the same release date as his two-year-old hit Pirates of the Caribbean. Then rival studios got their first glimpse of the kiddie classic's trailer with its creepy, psychedelic take and Depp in drag as Anna Wintour. Oops! Now New Line has moved its Vince-'n'-Owen romp Wedding Crashers onto the Chocolate Factory date, and Paramount followed with its Sundance rap saga Hustle and Flow.

click to enlarge The Interpreterstars Sean Penn and Nicole - Kidman as a - cop who  aw, save your money.
  • The Interpreterstars Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman as a cop who aw, save your money.

Because we love the smell of Maalox in the morning, let's review some summer movie trailers and decide who's going to need an Rx for stronger stuff, like Thorazine ...

Bewitched: Since this trailer debuted on AOL, the whole town's been talking about it -- and not in a nice way. Sony marketing czar Jeff Blake is one of the best in the business, but even he can't make a Prada purse out of this pig's ear of a film. (One word: Godzilla.) The trailer lets the cat out of the bag: This movie is not a remake of the TV show; it's a movie about the making of the TV show. Talk about a cockamamie concept. There's not one funny bit or line in the trailer, which makes us think there's not one funny bit or line in the movie or Sony would have used it. This is like a fun-house hall of mirrors, without the fun.

click to enlarge Steve Martin (right, with Jean Reno) looks for his minky.
  • Steve Martin (right, with Jean Reno) looks for his minky.

War of the Worlds: This trailer looks like Twister meets Independence Day. And since both of those ads were great, and the movies were monster hits, everything is going WOTW's way. Sure, there's something unseemly in a post-9/11, post-tsunami world about huge civic destruction, so when you see the people running from a somersaulting highway, it's not so much awesome as dreadful. Also, I kept looking for the Scientology "assist" tent, but guess it got cut out. Still, there's no way the wow factor of this trailer portends a movie battling the bow-wow factor.

The Longest Yard: I only counted one big laugh (Chris Rock's one-liner) in the trailer that's out now. Exactly when did Adam Sandler go from looking 25 to 55 years old? Something's very wrong when Burt Reynolds looks better than the leading man. (Yoo-hoo, Dr. 90210 ... )

click to enlarge The Longest Yard stars Adam Sandler, whos - grizzling - early.
  • The Longest Yard stars Adam Sandler, whos grizzling early.

Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith: It should be called Revenge of the Stiff.

Cinderella Man: Is anyone really in the mood for yet another earnest film about boxing? Especially after Hilary Swank demythologized this manly sport? The trailer makes this movie look like Seabiscuit wears boxing gloves, set in the same Depression era, filmed in the same sepia tones, sending the same come-from-behind message. No matter how good Russell Crowe is (and how bad Renee Zellweger looks), the trailer proves why NBC's The Contender isn't a hit.

Batman Begins: I had no wanna-see for this movie. Then I spied the trailer. God, Christian Bale is even more gorgeous here than he was in American Psycho. Finally, post-Kilmer and Clooney, someone is playing Batman as a manly man and not a fop. The trailer has one good shiver-down-the-spine moment; otherwise it's fairly routine. But it also leaves some nagging questions. Why is Batman being taught by Jedi knight Liam Neeson? And why is Batman strolling through Superman's ice planet?

Mr. and Mrs. Smith: The trailer makes this movie look like Prizzi's Honor with less-talented actors. I spent the whole time looking for clues as to whether Angelina and Brad were getting it on behind Jen's back, of course. If you ask me, we like these two stars looking their most slutty, yet the trailer has them too clothed. Not only isn't there any sizzle; there's not even a steak. Where's the beef(cake)?

The Interpreter: Thank god for movie trailers. This one will save you $9. Forget even such stale dialogue as "We've got a situation" and "Someone might get hurt." There's clearly even less chemistry between Nicole and Sean Penn in this Sydney Pollack whodunit than there was between Harrison and Kristin in Pollack's last try, the stillborn Random Hearts. Nice to know the old guy still hasn't lost his lackluster. Since this trailer seemed like a week long, the movie must seem like a life sentence.

The Pink Panther: This movie must have been made for the foreign market, because the trailer's all about a murder in a soccer stadium. But in a summer sorely lacking comedy, Steve Martin paired with Kevin Kline doesn't look too painful.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: This movie trailer satirizes movie trailers, but it's too clever by half. The arch British humor isn't of Monty Python quality. Sure, sci-fi geeks know about Douglas Adams' classic book, but the rest of the audience won't have a clue what this incoherent trailer is hawking. It's like a dog's whistle that someone heard, but not me.

--Nikki Finke

  • The summer movie war leaves audiences crying in their seats

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