Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't: Regarding Kick-Ass Red-Band Trailers...

My take is the whole manufactured controversy over Lionsgate's red-band Kick-Ass trailers is pretty simple. At the end of the day, trailers are supposed to give you an accurate look at what kind of movie you're going to be seeing. Granted, not every trailer accomplishes this, and many are quite deceptive, but that's the general idea. At the end of the day, red-band trailers for R-rated movies are more likely to be accurate in regards to tone and content than an all-ages green-band trailer. So, one could argue, that studios make red-band trailers to best advertise the kind of movie that they are selling. And, they do take certain steps to make sure that said previews are not easily viewed by those who otherwise wouldn't be allowed to see such films. Of course kids will invariably get around these barriers, but that's the nature of childhood.

But here's the issue: Let's say that Lionsgate didn't put out these R-rated trailers, specifically for a film that could easily be advertised as a family-friendly PG-13 superhero comedy about teenagers becoming costumed vigilantes. Frankly, profanity and violence aside, the film feels aimed at ten-year old boys anyway. Which is why, slight digression, even if it's as stupid as it looks, I'll probably be less offended by it than Wanted, which presumed itself to be intelligent, quasi-feminist, adult entertainment. Anyway, we all know that even with these trailers available online, there are still going to be any number of clueless parents who take their kids to see Kick-Ass over opening weekend fully expecting a feel-good teen comedy variation on Spider-Man. It happened with South Park: Bigger Longer Uncut and it'll happen here too.

At least Lionsgate can now state with complete honesty that they have made age-appropriate marketing materials that accurately reflect the content of this specific film. It may be a bullshit excuse, but it's a truthful and relevant one. Lionsgate is taking heat for making R-rated trailers and not doing enough to restrict access to young eyeballs. But had they just marketed the picture in the most homogeneous, blandly appealing fashion possible, they'd be criticized for not creating a truthful marketing campaign. At least this way, they can be theoretically more responsible and drum up some free publicity. The story here is not "Movie Mom" Nell Minow's perfectly understandable objections (that I don't entirely agree with) , but the fact that The New York Times (and Brook Barnes yet again) has basically taken the protests of one (in this case) knowledgeable and intelligent person and turned it into a finger-wagging trend story. Kick-Ass, a film that probably no one outside the geek set has ever heard of, just got front-page attention in the The New York Times. Lionsgate had best send them a lovely basket of chocolates, flowers, and balloons.

-Scott Mendelson