How Screen Media is selling the story of a character no one expected to see more of.
There are very few movies that demand sequels, no matter how hard some filmmakers and screenwriters work to set them up. One that certainly didn’t demand any sort of follow-up was the Coen Brothers classic The Big Lebowski.
Despite that, this week sees the release of The Jesus Rolls. Not a direct sequel to Lebowski but more of a spinoff, the focus of the story here shifts to Jesus Quintana, the bowling nemesis of The Dude and his compatriots, played by John Turturro.
In the movie, Quintana is just being released after spending years in prison. As he seeks to get his life back up and running he meets up with fellow sexual deviants – remember he’s a self-described pederast – Petey (Bobby Cannavale) and Marie (Audrey Tautou). The group finds comfort in each other as they engage in some light criminal activity along with romantic adventures.
The movie, written and directed by Turtorro and based on the 1974 French film Going Places, is getting only a limited release this weekend. That release has been preceded by a small-scale campaign that’s much smaller than what one might expect from a spinoff of a beloved classic.
There’s not much to the one domestic poster, but it does nicely reinforce the message that the title character is returning to the spotlight. With bright neon lighting for the title treatment, a purple bowling ball sporting a hairnet sitting in the center. It’s simple but gets the point across.
The first teaser (168,000 views on YouTube) came out at the end of January, not showing much but promising that Jesus still has his signature bowling move while text promises a road adventure with an all-star cast.
The official trailer (102,000 views on YouTube) came out just a little while later at the beginning of February. It sells the movie as a carefree road trip story that starts with Quintana being let out of prison and immediately getting back into partnership with his friend Petey. They start stealing cars and committing other small scale crimes again because that’s what they do. There are others they meet along the way, but it’s clear everyone is having a lot of fun doing the things they do best.
Online and Social
Pretty simple page for the film on the Screen Media website. It’s primarily there to encourage people to find one of the venues it’s screening at in the coming weeks or how to buy it on digital.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Originally titled “Going Places” in reference to the original it’s remaking the current name was bestowed in mid-2019 at the same time it was announced it would finally be released in early 2020. In October of last year the announcement came that the movie would have its world premiere at the Rome Film Festival that month before it was released in international markets.
Rolling Stone was given an exclusive clip focusing on Jesus and Petey picking up Jack, another newly-released convict played by Pete Davidson.
Media and Publicity
There was of course lots of chatter and speculation about the movie as it was debated as a spinoff of The Big Lebowski or not. That was eventually confirmed and later on a first look still released showing Turturro in character in, appropriately, a bowling alley.
Later on Turturro addressed the question on everyone’s mind and confirmed that yes, the Coen Brothers were cool with the character branching out a bit. He also offered some thoughts on how the character has evolved since his first appearance. Later on he updated the situation with comments about how he reworked some parts of the story to remove some problems.
The path Turturro took in making the movie, including how it resulted from another project and the negotiations he had to engage in to get the rights, were covered in another interview with the actor.
There’s a lot to like in this campaign, regardless of how small the scale might be. It has a strong brand identity and a strong vibe that’s communicated through all of the assets.
Whether or not the movie is essential is somewhat beside the point. That Turturro felt there was something more to do with the character he was integral to creating is what’s important, and the marketing doesn’t work that hard to draw connections between this and the earlier film so as not to create any false expectations.
While such a significant follow-up might feel like it deserves a bigger launch, it’s also understandable that other studios who might have given it a more substantial push would shy away given the character’s background.