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This Trailer Not Yet Rated

On Friday night, I had the pleasure of visiting a theatre in Seattle’s Capitol Hill district that specializes in classic films and features in-theatre beverage and dinner service. I’d never been there before, but my boyfriend brought to my attention the fact that they were hosting a Muppet Movie singalong. Beer + Muppets + singing? Couldn’t get there fast enough.

Now, clearly they were expecting a younger-than-normal crowd, since the movie started at 7PM. Early for a normal Friday night movie. (The 9PM was Meet the Feebles.) And sure enough, there was a nontrivial minority of theatre patrons who were children, eagerly buzzing as they waited for the film.

But before the film, you of course have theatre promo trailers (since these are not first-run movies that come with their own set of trailers.) The first set of trailers was advertising the theatre’s Pride Week offerings – a Will and Grace marathon, a fierce music video singalong, etc. Fairly tame, though replete with fabulous drag queens. Hard to be offended by that at all unless you were that crazy protesting church – it was OK to have the kids in the room.

Oh, but then.

A new trailer came on, which was a montage of clips from hip hop and rap videos to promote a full length R&B/rap singalong night. And since it’s singalong, all of the clips already had lyrics superimposed on the bottom. And things started out well – a little Beyonce bootyshaking, a little Kanye “Stronger”, “No Scrubs”, Eminem’s Lose Yourself. But there were also videos like “It’s Getting Hot in Here” – and when a shot appeared of a woman taking her top off to reveal a bra, an audible gasp and nervous giggling came from the right side of the theatre (where the kids were largely centered.)

From there, things began to snowball. Before we knew it, Cee Lo appeared onscreen – and the lyrics below him made it very clear which version of the song we were hearing. It’s one thing for a kid to hear an f-bomb in passing in music where it might get overlooked, but another thing for it to also be written onscreen in giant letters. And while we were all laughing in disbelief that NO ONE HAD STOPPED THE TRAILER yet, the next clip aired: “I Just Had Sex” featuring Akon and the Lonely Island guys from SNL. The video can’t really be censored, so they’re talking about their penises and where those go [just wait till the kids start singing THAT at home]… and then the CROTCH FIREWORKS start. I’d seen the clip before, but never in a room of Muppet fans of all ages. That pretty much killed the whole audience – the entire spectrum of guffaws, nervous tittering, children gasping, and parents in audible disbelief.

From a childless person’s perspective, in one way the whole thing was kind of epically hilarious. I’m sure most of the kids forgot about all that when Kermit came onscreen, and much of that music is available on basic cable (or even network!) to any comers. The snowball effect was priceless, as the entire audience went on a journey of realization right about the time that “It’s Getting Hot in Here” got hot. At least they didn’t do something like airing footage from Human Centipede or something. No kid’s going to have nightmares about crotch fireworks. I think.

At the same time, I’m mystified as to why the booth didn’t stop the trailer. They knew there were kids in the audience. It was most likely running off an in-house digital projector/PC setup, and the montage was LONG. (At least 3 minutes). Easy enough to just cut it and head off the inevitable complaints.

In the end, at least everyone got what they came for – a delightful evening reliving the classic Muppet Movie and seeing how well it held up. (But the Doc Hopper plotline is messed up and freaked me out as a kid – it’s only slightly less disturbing now.) So many things you wouldn’t get as a kid, like implied sex between Piggy and Kermit, or Mel Brooks’ Jewish German doctor and why that was supposed to be abnormal. For whatever reason, the Orson Welles moment at the end of the movie in Hollywood (“Draw up the standard ‘Rich and Famous’ contracts for Mr. Kermit the Frog and company”) is so ridiculous that it’s hopelessly endearing.

(My date and I were both wondering whether the lyrics were being generated in-house, or if they just get special lyrics-enabled copies. The fact that the hip hop video debacle was entirely subtitled makes us think that it’s some sort of auto-subtitling system, which would be cool if it existed.)

I saw some choice offerings later in the summer on their schedule (Labyrinth! Galaxyquest!) so I may drag us back there now that my boyfriend’s tipped me off to its existence. But I’ll have high expectations for those trailers now; they’d better not disappoint.

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