Movie poster design probably isn’t as lost an art as many claim it to be, but every year, countless audience-insulting ads arrive to support the theories of the doomsday crowd. Granted, there are plenty of tossed-together one-sheets out there that are easy targets for criticism, but none ticked off this poster lover like the doozies included here. From glaring dependence on star power to the dreaded sliver formula, these design snafus are the ones that made you want to pull a Banksy at the multiplex, whipping out your Krylon can and doing a little defacing, if only to counteract the woes of daft commercialism.
The only reason the poster for American Hustle was dropped to the “Dishonorable Mention” section is its retro-outfitted stars are so darn pretty to look at. Bradley Cooper runs away with the trophy for the year’s Best Use of Curlers, while Amy Adams follows with the year’s Best Use of Cleavage. But, really, couldn’t the team at Sony have tried a bit harder to evoke the film’s mood and period? There’s an argument to be made that this movie, a crime epic enamored of tacky surfaces, deserves an ad campaign that likewise relies only on base attractions, like boilerplate ’70s font and name stars with throwback hairstyles. Ultimately, though, it wildly undersells a film, that, unlike David O. Russell’s last two efforts, cuts the tether to the kind of industry conventions represented here.
As Cool As I Am
You’ll find any number of modern, romance-infused dramedies that are bent on resorting to the least inspired design elements to lure in an audience. A few hastily assembled faces? Check. Generic tagline? Check. Even more generic font? Natch. So, while the one-sheet for As Cool As I Am, a Claire Danes-starrer that nobody saw, is a bit of a stand-in for a whole lot of strikingly similar failures, it also might be the most offensive. Negative space can be a virtue in many cases, but here it only underlines a vast creative void. Also, let’s guess what the characters, each trimmed out of a separate screenshot, are smirking at. Could it be the designers? Or maybe the gullible would-be viewer who finds this art compelling? As fine as these advertised actors may be, you know what’s not cool? Laziness.
The Book Thief
The saddest thing about this poster for The Book Thief is that it welcomes the cheap shots so many took when evaluating the film, which is worth a lot more than the dismissive label of “Oscar bait.” With a pyre of books burning pristinely in the background, the ad places a grossly plasticized Liesel (Sophie Nelisse) front and center, her complexion looking as if she’s been sprayed with the glaze that fast-food restaurants use to pretty up their grub in commercials. What’s more, 20th Century Fox tackily opted to include the note, “From the studio that brought you Life of Pi,” as if the stranded-at-sea adventure has anything to do with this drama of historical tragedy. The comparison, frankly, is a little disgraceful. To quote Hesh Rabkin from a season-four episode of The Sopranos, “You’re trivializing the Holocaust. Frankly, if you’ve got that kind of covert anti-semitism, I’d like you to leave my house.”
10. The Big Wedding
Word on the street is this poster for The Big Wedding actually boasts a cast photo—as in, all of the A-listers from this super-stuffed ensemble were in the same room to produce this group image. Excuse me for being more than a little skeptical. Amanda Seyfried may indeed be leaning on the shoulder of Ben Barnes (rather than a P.A.), and Bob De Niro may be holding Susan Sarandon tight, but Christine Ebersole looks like she was in another country, while Diane Keaton is gazing into the reaches of space. Even if the rumors are true, and these players somehow stood together to create the first group photo that mimics a Photoshop hatchet job, the ad nevertheless continues the wretched, Valentine’s Day-style myth that oodles of airbrushed stars will equal oodles of fun.
9. What Maisie Knew
I hate to complain about being handed free stuff, but the most tasteless bit of movie swag I received this year was easily a pen from the folks promoting What Maisie Knew, an adaptation of the famed novel about a custody battle over the eponymous girl (played in the film by Onata Aprile). The pen, its tubular shape half transparent, contains a miniature Maisie, who, when the pen is tipped up and down, slides between the outstretched hands of her mother and father. That’s right: The pen is essentially “Child Custody: The Game.” Such an epically ill-advised marketing item is mirrored in this design, which tries in vain to contrast a child’s innocence against the ills of adulthood (symbolized by the mean, imposing city). Nevermind the fact that Maisie looks like she could fall to her death from that swing at any moment. In attempting to emphasize Maisie’s playful cuteness to elicit sympathy, this movie’s promotional material cheapens the gravity of parental separation, and more importantly, its collateral damage.
8. The Hangover Part III
If there are people who were breathlessly awaiting a third Hangover film, I don’t know them. And I don’t believe I know anyone who would agree that this franchise, however societally ingrained its first installment, warrants the unfunny, arrogant aping of a certain Harry Potter teaser poster. This one-sheet, whose only amusing detail is the likening of a burning Las Vegas to an under-siege magical empire, is primarily a testament to the notion that Todd Phillips’s bro-love saga is fresh out of ideas, so much so that it can’t even whip up a decent poster to call its own. Naturally, this design is intended as an exercise in lampooning, and perhaps even as an indication that the Wolfpack members act like fantastical children. But when was the last time this type of spoof misfired with such undue overconfidence?