Long-range tracking has Universal’s R-rated comedy opening around $15 million.
The tween characters in Good Boys – directed by Gene Stupnitsky, who cowrote with Lee Eisenberg and produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg – are a bunch of clueless dorks in a familiar story. Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Newton) are all best friends who are panicking because they’ve been invited to their first middle school party, one they are afraid will include kissing and other activities they are inexperienced with.
Setting out to gain the knowledge they deem necessary to take part, they borrow the drone owned by Max’s dad to spy on their older teenage neighbor. When that drone falls into the hands of Hannah (Molly Gordon) and Lily (Midori Francis), the trio has to somehow get it back. Doing so winds up involving a surprising amount of drugs, sex toys and other materials they’re not nearly old enough to deal with.
That concept – of both the young actors and the characters they play – being underage for the level of material has formed the crux of Universal’s campaign.
There has, surprisingly, only been one poster released for the movie. It came out around the same time as the first trailer and shows the tops of the heads of the three leads, a line hovering above them declaring “You must be this tall to see this movie.” That indicates for the audience that we’re dealing with some inappropriate material here. That message is reinforced by the big “R” rating in the middle as well as the movies mentioned at the top produced by the same team as this one.
The red-band trailer, which debuted at the same time the movie was appearing at SXSW, opens with Seth Rogen (a producer on the movie) explaining to the underage stars that the movie is so offensive the actors themselves can’t watch it. When footage finally starts we see the group of friends is trying to improve their middle school image, including knowing how to kiss a girl so they can be cool when they go to a party. Their hijinks involves them encountering sex toys they don’t know the real purpose for, accidentally acquiring someone else’s drugs and watching a little port. [extreme john mulaney voice] As one does. [/extreme john mulaney voice]
The jokes are slightly different in the later all-ages trailer but the message is the same, that the three guys are a bit clueless when it comes to girls (or basic biology) but are determined to be cool at a party. All sorts of craziness ensues as they try to figure out what girls want and show off their general lack of awareness and knowledge while everyone around them is much more worldly.
Another red-band trailer came in mid-July that opens once more with Rogen explaining the underage cast is too young to see the movie they just starred in. When footage kicks in it’s clear there’s plenty of language and other offensive material here, including lots of humor revolving around sex and drugs. A few new scenes offer additional context but by and large it’s similar to what has been shown before.
Online and Social
For the most part the movie’s official website features just the usual collection of marketing material. The only addition to that is a “Game” that lets you basically play Frogger, but you’re trying to get Max, Lucas and Thor across the highway in a recreation of a scene from the film. That game was also available to play on Snapchat.
Advertising and Publicity
This was one of two movies Seth Rogen had at SXSW this year, something that came up in various interviews with the actor/producer. Rogen and the underage members of the cast were part of Universal’s presentation at CinemaCon in April, cracking up the industry and press crowd and further promising a raunchy comedy that would bring in the audience. A screening of the movie was hosted by Universal at CineEurope in June.
Online display ads used the key art, including the title treatment with devil horns and the innocent-looking faces of the cast.
A series of red-band clips showing scenes from the movie involving piloting a drone, getting rid of the drugs they mistakenly have, attempting to steal a beer and learning how to kiss. Complex also received an exclusive clip featuring Lil Rey and Retta as Lucas’ parents.
While much of the campaign was centered around the kids, a featurette released earlier this month introduced us to the adults in the story as well as the actors who play them. Another focused on the bad words the kids were asked to say in the script.
Universal announced free screenings of the movie at select theaters across the country last Wednesday, August 7th, to mark National Friendship Day, which is a nice thematic tie-in to the movie’s story.
Media and Press
Tremblay appeared on “The Tonight Show” to do impressions and generally be cute while selling the raunchy movie he stars in. Lucas was on “Kimmel” to do likewise. All three kids showed up on “Late Night” and Howery was featured on “The Tonight Show.”
Given the fate that’s befallen many non-franchise films lately – especially those in the “comedy” genre – it’s understandable that the movie became the focus of stories like this wondering whether it can lure adult moviegoers to theaters.
Rogen was interviewed about whether the movie is appropriate for those under 17 and what kind of comedy he and the other filmmakers were trying to craft, including what kind of inspiration they drew from. There were also a few interviews with Gordon about her own experiences growing up.
While the campaign does make the movie look funny in an “OMG did they really do that?” kind of way, the emphasis on the idea of age appropriateness has me concerned the studio and filmmakers didn’t have enough faith to sell the story on its own merits. By continuing to go to the “these kids are too young to see their own movie” well it seems the actual ideas of the movie are being put to the side, which is usually a sign the marketing team doesn’t know how else to present the film to audiences.
What may be happening in this case is that, with the skeletons of so many recent comedies already bleaching in the desert sun, the decision was made to brand the movie as insanely outrageous and maybe even a little controversial in order to get people’s attention and pique their interest. That’s resulted in a campaign that constantly draws attention to the subject matter contained in the movie while not offering much in the way of the context that’s presented in.
We’ll have to see if it can break out where others have failed. In the meantime, let’s not forget the best “crossing the highway in a panic” scene ever committed to film.