How do you make a bad movie good?
It’s late June and the men behind Honest Trailers are in the writers' room, trying to crack the latest in their series – a look at Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups.
“I’m not trying to shit on him,” Honest Trailers creator Andy Signore says of Sandler's movie. “That’s not really the goal, which is to call it out for what it is: super lazy and an excuse to go on vacation with his friends.”
The trailers from Break Media’s Screen Junkies have wracked up more than 50 million views since launching in February 2012. Part of their charm is they're just the right amount of snark, charm and movie geekiness.
"When a movie’s really bad, you don’t want to do be too mean. It’s a fine line," says Signore, director, programming and creator/director of Honest Trailers. Adds Mitch Rotter, executive vp programming: "It only comes from a place of 'we love movies.' It’s not like we could’ve written them better."
Honest Trailers feature a gravelly voiced narrator who take shots at things that studios don't highlight in their own trailers. There's a montage of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson staring at each other in the Twilight films, and exposition about how much of Iron Man 2 is dedicated to boring government committees and corporate maneuvering.
For Iron Man 2, the team had to be careful not to get bogged down in the film's subplots, says Spencer Gilbert, writer, scripted comedy.
"It’s not trailery to go into all of these little details," Gilbert says. "That’s the note Andy is always giving us: Make it more like a trailer."
Another pitfall can be veering into what Signore calls “Sarcastic Trailers” territory.
“That’s not honest. You can’t do it in sarcastic voice,” Says Signore. “It’s always funnier when you call out ‘why is it the dumbest movie?’ Figure out the reason for it.”
For every Twilight or Grown Ups they tackle, there’s an Inception or Jurassic Park – films the guys genuinely like and must dig deep to skewer. The Dark Knight was the first film they took on in that latter category. Signore says the key was focusing on some aspect that they found problematic.
“It’s always good when one of us is passionate about something negative in the movie – that’s our in,” says Signore.
In Dark Knight, that was Batman taking the fall for Harvey Dent’s [Aaron Eckhart] crimes. The Dark Knight Honest Trailer was also a turning point because it was the first time the team acknowledged in the trailer that the movie was great (The narrator ends it by saying, “Oh who are we kidding, the movie is f---ing awesome.”)
“That allowed the fans to go, ‘they’re nitpicking but they’re admitting it’s cool, so I can laugh at this,’” Signore says. “That was a good lesson. We’ve used that a few times with Independence Day, and Jurassic Park.”
The team has been trying to get a celebrity to participate in an Honest Trailer in the next year. They’ve come close at least once, but the star backed out, fearing the wrath of the studio. But the team has heard second hand that people in the industry like their work – including someone working on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire who said the The Hunger Games Honest Trailer had been passed around the set.
One of their proudest moments came when Prometheus scribe Damon Lindelof tweeted his approval of their trailer, writing: “Honest Trailer: PROMETHEUS. The pain I endured watching this was all worth it once I heard the words ‘Super Vagina.’”
As for what’s next, the team would like to do more with classic movies, like they did this summer with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Taking on their first animated film is something they’re also considering.
“This summer has given us amazing movies to hit, which have been requested nonstop,” Signore says. “I cannot wait to do the Man of Steel. I cannot wait to do Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness. Those three are going to be huge.”
Watch the latest Honest Trailer, the group’s 30th, below, and see the complete list here.