Trailer Talk

The Family – Trailer Talk

[box]First attempt at a new feature. I take a trailer, strip it to its core elements, and see what’s there. Simple.[/box]

The Family

Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones
Tagline: Some call it organized crime. Others call it family.

The Pitch

A family escaping from a bigger family (the mob). Exotic locales, Americans living out stereotypes, Deniro getting violent. Explosions!

The Hook

We’ve got Robert Deniro, the Rolling Stones, and hip 70s clothes.

"Laugh it up future, these clothes will always be awesome."
“Laugh it up future, these clothes will always be awesome.”

But that’s not all! We’ve also got italian-ish character actors:

Actual name: Chad Smith
Actual name: Chad Smith

But a trailer that starts with a mob picnic doesn’t end with a mafia dessert down at the Olive Garden. We transition to part 2 of the trailer with a gunshot. Which, incidentally, is the second most popular transition sound effect behind a record scratch (and just barely ahead of a door slamming).

Cue vaguely Italian music and bearded Deniro.

"According to the timeline here, I've had 40 years to grow this beard and perfect this squint."
“According to the timeline here, I’ve had 40 years to grow this beard and perfect this squint.”

People in movies only grow beards for three reasons: 1) to show the passage of time, 2) to hide a disfiguring scar, and 3) to show they’re poor and can’t afford a 39 cent razor from CVS.

The Twist

It’s a witness protection movie! It’s a fish out of water movie! It’s My Blue Heaven with kids and bigger explosions and no Rick Moranis.
Oh right, the kids.

The Cast

We have the son, Foreshadowing McGee:

See, kids are bored. And armed. And he's probably twittering too somehow.
See, kids are bored. And armed. And he’s probably twittering too somehow.

And his sister, Punchyoface Sundress:

Ridding the French countryside of gingers.
Ridding the French countryside of gingers.

Fun characters, but there’s one thing that lots of these films do that boggles my mind. Here, see if you can guess:

See, still bored.
See, still bored.

This film subscribes to the “Kermit & Miss Piggy” school of thought when it comes to procreation. The girls will look like the mother, the boys like the father. Because otherwise, how will we know they’re really their kids unless they’re miniature versions of the parents. Obviously.

"Oh my god! We're pigs and frogs eating a turkey! This food chain is fucked up."
“Oh my god! We’re pigs and frogs eating a turkey! This food chain is fucked up.”

Let’s not forget Michelle Pfeiffer as the protective mother:

"I told you to turn on the bathroom fan."
“I told you to turn on the bathroom fan.”

And Tommy Lee Jones as Tommy Lee Jones:

He's laughing on the inside.
He’s laughing on the inside.

The Conflict

Since this is a fish out of water film, we see the family out of their element. They encounter rude French people!

"No, we don't just call them 'Fries' here."
“No, we don’t just call them ‘Fries’ here.”

They have trouble at school, they don’t fit in. But that’s ok. There’s no problem a little American style violence can’t solve. Let the family show you how to properly deal with international relations (hint: it’s mostly punching).

Since this is a witness protection movie as well, the bad guys will find our heroes and chaos will ensue.

Trailer Act III

Here comes the mob!

I loved you in Fringe.
I loved you in Fringe.

It’s easy to identify the mob, btw. They wear black suits, hats, and they’re always shooting up your neighborhood.
Except for this guy:

"Knife to meet you! No? Yeah, I need to think of something better."
“Knife to meet you! No? Yeah, I need to think of something better.”

All of this is a slow burn for Deniro, who we’ve only seen up to this point chatting with Tommy Lee Jones through his beard. Not exactly stabbing someone in the trunk of a car level stuff. But they promise a bit of payoff:

"My softball league is gonna be pissed."
“My softball league is gonna be pissed.”


Fewer films have used full voiceovers for trailers in recent years. More seem to use text (title cards) interspersed throughout. This one opts for a beginning voiceover by Deniro and then moves things forward with 3 distinct songs, lots of loud noises, and no title cards. A voice over or text would have broken up the very deliberate flow of the trailer. Besides, no one wants to read for a movie like this, and why say something over your star who can say it better himself?

From the makers of

Not to be confused with “Academy Award Nominee ________” plastered at the top of the screen. This is where they tell you what the producers/writers/director has done in the past so you know their resume. Here they go with:
From Executive Producer Martin Scorsese

To show that they’re serious about the mobster angle. And to convince you that Deniro didn’t just roll out of bed with a 2 week beard and decide to star in a movie.

And, near the end, they hit you with:

Action Cred Solidified
Action Cred Solidified

Just in case people weren’t sure who Luc Besson was, they give you a few more hints:

Girl with a gun? Hmm.
Girl with a gun? Hmm.

At this point they’re hoping you’re flashing back to La Femme Nikita and The Professional (Leon). Just in case that didn’t sink in, here’s this:

Why did I pay for this shitty fence? I want a refund.
This shitty fence didn’t stop a mob rocket. I want a refund.

Over the top action with a good bit of humor thrown in. Closer to The Fifth Element than Taken, but they don’t want to confuse people with genres.


Clearly this movie appeals to those who like their action with some comedy, like their comedy with some violence, and don’t take things too seriously. Enough mafia menace to evoke Goodfellas, but not so much that we’re afraid Joe Pesci is gonna show up and shoot a kid for mouthing off.