Poster Lab: The Worst Movie Posters of 2012

The twisted minds at Lionsgate really outdid themselves with the poaster for What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

Poster Lab: The Worst Movie Posters of 2012Dishonorable Mention

The Sessions: The flagship poster for The Sessions is just your latest example of a marketing brainfart: How does one sell a dramedy about a polio survivor looking to lose his virginity? The answer, sadly, is the old, square, film-still-collage standby, whose slanted positioning doesn’t make it any less banal. The ad may be preferable to its illustrated counterpart, which walks a dangerous line between the inspired and the vulgar, but it still fails to do the movie justice, its design appearing unfinished and its lone pullquote a cheap ploy for Oscar love. [Poster]

Save the Date: Never mind the whole bottom-heavy layout here, which opts to crush a pair of stills with a needless mountain of whitespace. The real problem is what’s conveyed in the stills themselves: an aesthetic defined by boring over-the-shoulder shots. Is it a metaphor for the male characters’ lack of emotional presence? Is it underscoring the prominence of the females of the film? Not really—it’s just bad design. And rather than providing quirky adornment as intended, the pencil-drawn faces merely appear tacked-on, somehow making this minimalistic-in-all-the-wrong-ways fiasco look busy. [Poster]

The Giant Mechanical Man: A wonderful gem that never quite found an audience, The Giant Mechanical Man deserved much better than this tossed-together one-sheet, which basically slaps a still on a blue background and scrawls in some text. None of the film’s infectious, magical-realist nature is expressed, only the fact that Jenna Fischer and Chris Messina go for coffee. The lone cloud and subtle heart might suggest that love is in the air for these drifters, but none of it succeeds in piquing interest.. [Poster]

The Worst

Magic Mike, Won't Back Down, Hyde Park on Hudson

10. Magic Mike: It’s somewhat appropriate that Magic Mike’s main poster is consummately tacky, as strip joints aren’t much known for championing chic refinement. But no matter how much the image promises a party, it’s still awful to look at, making Village People out of its quintet of skin-barers, and dropping them in a conga line atop that oddball, criss-crossing font. Another victim of promotional bewilderment, the ad is so desperate for context that it employs its title twice, once the old-fashioned way and once as tawdry wallpaper. [Poster]

9. Won’t Back Down: More than anything, the poster for Won’t Back Down communicates big-studio dishonesty, and a hastiness that underlines a chief interest in making bank. For those who didn’t know, this movie went through a heap of screen tests and title changes, and one can imagine any title alternative printed in that same tough, yet bookish, font. But beyond such a nitpicky qualm, the real faux pas is the depiction of Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal, who aren’t just Photoshopped within inches of their lives, but appearing to be worlds away from each other. [Poster]

8. Hyde Park on Hudson (Italian): If there’s one thing Hyde Park on Hudson doesn’t need, it’s an ad that makes the period puff piece seem that much more ridiculous. A worse photo of Bill Murray, in character as FDR, has likely never been taken, his pearly whites looking ready to bite that cigarette holder in half. I don’t know what those Italian quotes say, but I’ll take a crack: “The best ill-conceived comedy you’ll ever see about FDR, his under-explored sexual escapades, his borderline incest, his Yankee ideals, and his feeding of all-beef weiners to the Royal Family.” [Poster]

Joyful Noise, One for the Money, Liberal Arts

7. Joyful Noise: A pseudo-rehash of that dreadful poster for Nine, which positioned its players before a screaming crowd despite all the obvious cut-and-paste, this one-sheet, which insists that you “Dream a whole lot louder, ” could have certainly tried a whole lot harder, instead of pairing a bland font with what look like paper-doll cutouts of its stars. The movie itself deserved better than its predictably poor reception, but its advertising implied a shrill, incongruous hackjob. [Poster]

6. One for the Money: As House mate Keith Uhlich observed just before One for the Money hit theaters, this poster, at the very least, exercises truth in advertising. Katherine Heigl’s uncanny ability to ensure that each new project is worse than her last is matched only by her apparent hunger for the next paycheck—anything to keep her perch as Hollywood’s most undue headliner. Heigl’s cheeky smirk may well include a wink, and that tagline is just too easy, as Heigl isn’t looking for a “few not-so-good men,” but a few not-so-good movies. [Poster]

5. Liberal Arts: Or, Literal Arts. Josh Radnor’s sophomore feature, about a New York admissions counselor returning to his alma mater, deftly succeeds at capturing college nostalgia, but its posters couldn’t have taken an easier, more condescending road, defining the college experience with galumphing visual metaphors. If you’re not digging this quaint autumn version, which sees maple leaves rain down as book pages, perhaps you’ll warm to the arguably worse alternative, wherein Radnor and Elizabeth Olsen, in the same gleeful strides, traipse across the actual pages of a textbook. What, no mortarboards? Or Greek letters in the title? [Poster]

To Rome with Love, The Devil Inside, Darling Companion

4. To Rome with Love: Presumably whipped up for festival promotion, the first one-sheet for Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love is the year’s worst cell-collage offender, a mess of screenshots, character crops, and highly deliberate imagery. There’s Rome! And a kiss! Get it? There’s also an ill-fitting still of a brooding Alec Baldwin, a pic of sexpot Penélope Cruz in what looks like a bra, and cutouts of Allen and Roberto Begnini at their most buffoonish. What’s not to hate? [Poster] [Article]

3. The Devil Inside: As long as films like The Devil Inside keep roping in adrenaline junkies, Tinseltown will keep on peddling its two favorite horror gimmicks, the found-footage thriller and the fact-based exorcist tale. Both tropes are present in this wretched spookfest, whose distinguishing trademark is the inverted cross repeatedly carved into victims’ skin. How to sell The Devil Inside? Why, with an airbrushed shot of a lady flaunting her mutilated lip, of course, the whole thing looking conspicuously like an advertisement for cunnilingus. [Poster]

2. Darling Companion: If ever there were a poster that looked like it was made over the weekend, by a first-year design student coming off of a wicked bender, it’s the wildly unprofessional one-sheet for Darling Companion, that Diane Keaton dog movie that no one bothered to see. The clipping path around that Collie might be the worst to ever make it onto a mainstream product, the head and paws rendered inorganic with hard lines, and the left paw blurred to oblivion in an attempt to smooth the error. As for that leg, 100 bucks says it’s a paint-tool creation, as no woman’s shin or black pump has fuzzy, feathered edges. But, fear not kids, all is well here: If you don’t like this advertisement, you can always hit the website instead, via that glaring stain of a QR code. [Poster] [Article]

What to Expect When you’re Expecting

1. What to Expect When You’re Expecting: An unnerving, WTF project of Lynchian proportions, the poster campaign for What to Expect When You’re Expecting would make for great wallpaper, so long as you like pretending you live in a Soundgarden video. Like the wide-eyed weirdos who rome the suburbs in the rock band’s clip for “Black Hole Sun,” the ladies in these one-sheets hide nutjob transgression beneath their cutesy smiles, serving you rom-com giggles when all they really want to do is barbecue a Barbie. The twisted minds at Lionsgate, who continue to bankroll B-grade horror and the works of Tyler Perry, really outdid themselves when selling this how-to adaptation as something naughty and cute, extending their pinkies while putting filth in the mouths of expectant characters. Whether you prefer Anna Kendrick’s crack about peeing on a stick, Cameron Diaz’s revelation about her pregnancy-enhanced rack, or Brooklyn Decker’s declaration about being “crazy horny,” there’s something for everyone in this string of character posters, excluding, of course, anyone with an iota of sanity or good taste. [Poster] [Article]

R. Kurt Osenlund

R. Kurt Osenlund is a creative director and account supervisor at Mark Allen & Co. He is the former editor of Out magazine.

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