by Glenn Lovell
If you have the impression that there are two movies out there titled “Money Monster,” you’re not alone. The original trailer for the TriStar-Sony release, starring George Clooney as the fast-talking host of a cable finance show and Julia Roberts as his producer, makes it seem a Sidney Lumet hostage drama a la “Dog Day Afternoon.” It’s dark, brittle, more than a little uncomfortable to watch.
Then — pop! — a couple of weeks before the film’s release (on Friday the 13th, no less), there’s a second trailer. It doesn’t contain the disgruntled hostage-taker (Jack O’Connell) or the detailed walk-up to the timely anti-Wall Street premise. Instead, we get what feels like a stock urban thriller, with Clooney yelling for everyone to take cover, clear the streets. Suddenly, this film about stock-market skullduggery and its cataclysmic toll on John Q. Public has morphed into a “White House Down”/”Olympus Has Fallen” techno-fantasy.
The second, newer TV trailer is as vague — and purposely misleading — as the first trailer was detailed, heartfelt … accusatory.
Obviously studio pollsters, ever-mindful of these politically fractious times, took the pulse of the intended demographic and didn’t like the feedback to Trailer #1. So, quick like a bunny, they retooled to make the film seem a generic, run-and-hide apocalyptic number, complete with requisite panic-in-the-streets cutaways.
Never a good sign, this last-minute tinkering. Director Jodie Foster, who has yet to have a hit behind the camera after three previous tries, must be livid. Sony, which needs to recoup $90 million on its $30 million investment to see a profit, is obviously looking to cut its losses. And the best way to do this? Play the marketing version of three-card Monte.