The goal of a movie trailer is to make theatergoers want to see a movie, but sometimes it accomplishes that goal a little too well.
In other words, a great trailer has the ability to make a sub-par movie seem watchable. Maybe it was because the editing was misleading, or because the cast and crew looked so amazing, or perhaps it was simply because the trailer was packed with 90 seconds of the movie's only worthwhile scenes and an overly sentimental soundtrack — whatever the reason, certain movies fall short of the promises they make in the preview.
Granted, not every movie with a great preview is bound to disappoint, but we'll be damned if we (and the critics) weren't a little bummed after finally seeing …
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 43 Metacritic score: 44
When "The Village" came out, director M. Night Shyamalan was already on his way to becoming a one-trick pony (the trick being that his films almost always employed twist endings on par with old episodes of "The Twilight Zone.") But in 2004, fans were still eager to find out the secret of "The Village," and can you blame them? The trailer was highly intriguing. Unfortunately, Roger Ebert described the twist ending was "so witless … that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don't know the secret anymore."
"The Monuments Men"
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 33 Metacritic score: 52
"The Monuments Men" looked like it was going to be a rousing World War II heist film with a quirky ensemble cast à la "Ocean's Eleven" (Look! It's Bill Murray! And John Goodman! And that short guy from "Seinfeld" and those Christopher Guest movies!) But critics trashed George Clooney's direction, especially for giving the film an uneven tone that wavered between comedic and gravely serious (as noted by The Sydney Morning Herald and Total Film).
"Where the Wild Things Are"
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 73 Metacritic score: 71
The trailer for "Where the Wild Things Are" managed to capture the wonder and excitement of Maurice Sendak's 1963 children's classic while acclimating viewers to Spike Jonze's live-action take on the source material. It was an impressive feat, albeit one that set a high bar for the finished film. Some reviewers loved it, but more than a few — including those from The New Yorker and Salon — found the movie too depressing for children.
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 65 Metacritic score: 56
"Watchmen" had a couple of great trailers and one of the most engaging opening credits sequences in recent memory, but some criticized the film for taking itself too seriously (like the critics from Entertainment Weekly and Variety, to name a few). It didn't help that the movie's ending deviated heavily from that of the original comics, which alienated "Watchmen" fanboys. (But then again, there's almost no pleasing those guys.)
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 34 Metacritic score: 48
We were sold on "The Counselor" halfway through the preview, which introduced us to an A-list cast that included Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt before tempting us with sex, gunplay and … whoa, did they just decapitate a guy using a spotlight and some fishing line? It's too bad the reviews were strongly negative, with critics claiming that "The Counselor" wasted its talent (Variety) and bogged down audiences with a convoluted script (Movieline).
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 77 Metacritic score: 64
"Cloverfield" didn't earn overwhelmingly bad reviews, but the trailer set impossibly high expectations. Nobody really knew what the heck it was about — or even what it was called — which fueled massive internet speculation (some thought it might be a Godzilla film or "Lost" spin-off). It was pretty hard to live up to that hype when "Cloverfield" eventually hit theaters, especially when the hand-held camerawork left some moviegoers queasy after an hour and a half.
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 51 Metacritic score: 51
Judging by its preview, "John Carter" seemed to be about a cowboy-type guy from the 19th century who grabs a sword and becomes a superhero on a distant planet. What more could people want from a big-budget summer blockbuster? Apparently, the answer to that question is "a lot," because "John Carter" turned out to be a huge critical and commercial disappointment. The Guardian thought it was "a doughy feast of boredom" and the New York Times simply called it a bad movie that "should not look this good."
"Snow White and the Huntsman"
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 48 Metacritic score: 57
The trailers for "Snow White and The Huntsman" did a great job of showcasing the film's beautiful cinematography, costumes and special effects — but they had no right to make the movie look as good as they did. The film's reviews were mixed, with some critics praising its "visual wonderments" (Roger Ebert) while others felt they were enduring "an extreme form of punishment" (Leonard Maltin).
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 45 Metacritic score: 47
For a good scare, look no further than the preview for "The Strangers." For an equally good scary movie, look elsewhere. The trailer for this 2008 horror flick was genuinely creepy thanks to the faceless antagonists and skipping soundtrack, but the actual film couldn't sustain those thrills for a full 86 minutes. "The suspense starts seeping out of 'The Strangers' because you realize that's all there's going to be to the movie," Rene Rodriguez wrote in the Miami Herald. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle shared a similar opinion, but also found the filmmaking to be "objectionable and vile," albeit skillful.
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 50 Metacritic score: 54
Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" bolstered its trailer with a catchy tune and whimsical visuals (the latter of which were seemingly taken straight from Wes Anderson's playbook), but the full-length movie arguably offered little more. The Wall Street Journal's reviewer called it "lifeless" and stated, "I don't know what this film was trying for." Richard Roeper didn't enjoy "Mitty" much more, calling it a "wildly uneven venture that too often plays like an extended ego trip for Stiller."