Holding movies to account over false advertising

Donald Clarke wants a Campaign for Real Trailers

Tom Cruise  in Jack Reacher

Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher


I like the sound of J Congdon. A gentleman of that name (or pseudonym) has just persuaded a court in New Zealand that the distributors of Jack Reacher are legally required to refund him the price of his ticket.

The southern hemisphere is leading the way. Soon every cinemagoer will have the right to demand recompense when they’ve been subjected to 120 minutes of pigswill. Yes, it will bring the medium to its knees. But it will mean that we won’t have to suffer GI Joe: Whatever Part III Is to Be Called.

Relax, Rob Schneider (wherever you now are). The Kiwi legal establishment has not decreed that a film’s sheer badness can be grounds for breach of contract. Mr Congdon sued because he felt the trailer was misleading.
(I know what you mean, mate. The promo seemed to suggest the film did not emerge from the back end of a horse.) More specifically, the plaintiff noticed that a particularly spectacular explosion was missing from the finished film.

“The explosion where the whole cliff comes down was the defining part of the ad that made me really want to go see the movie, aside,” he added politely, “from having Tom Cruise in it.” Our latest honorary Irishman will be relieved to hear he is still as big a draw as the average collapsing cliff.

This is not the only recent example of a litigant alleging that a trailer promised more booms than the finished product delivered. In late 2011, a lady sued the distributors of Drive because the trailer suggested Nicolas Winding Refn’s fine film appeared to promise low-brow action of the Fast and, indeed, Furious calibre.

Her suit argued that the film “bore very little similarity to a chase, or race action film . . .having very little driving in the motion picture”. That is to say, it wasn’t as stupid as the distributors promised.

As I suggested earlier, Mr Congdon is to be admired. It takes guts to admit in a court that, when seeking a night’s entertainment, your main requirements are a demolished escarpment and a diminutive Scientologist. You, sir, are clearly not the sort of man who, riding on the train, hides a copy of The Da Vinci Code between the covers of Being and Nothingness . Likewise, the lady who sued the Drive people does not turn off Britney and turn on Bartok when answering the phone.

Their courage should be honoured. The time has come – taking our queue from bearded beer nuts in 1970s England – to launch the Campaign for Real Trailers. CART will demand that every Adam Sandler promo be dubbed with the sound of nauseous groaning. Any subsequent trailers for Damonless Bourne films will bear the logo (ahem) “Bourne Free”. All Hobbit trailers will carry warnings for those with limited (or indeed normal) bladders.

The bumper stickers are on the way.