Can A Movie Trailer Be Accused Of False Advertising?

David Pogue has an interesting rant in today’s Circuits column about the movie “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”—or more specifically about its trailer, which is chock-full of scenes, dialogue, locations, and plot references that are nowhere to be found in the actual movie. He asks, “Just how different can a trailer be without becoming false advertising?” We immediately thought about last year’s kids flick “Bridge to Terabithia,” which was advertised like a whimsical Narnia spin-off but in reality was about the death of a major character.

In that case, reviewers got the word out to unwary parents fairly well—pretty much every review hinted that viewers should make sure they understood the content before seeing the movie. But shouldn’t studios be more honest in representing the content of their films?

In this case, those lines from Riley made the movie seem funnier than it was, the president’s line made the dramatic stakes seem higher than they were, and the scenes at the Lincoln Memorial made the historical conspiracy seem more ingenious than it was (historical clues hidden right under our noses!). I can say with confidence that some of those elements played a part in my wanting to see the movie.
Rearranging scenes in the trailer is one thing. But what about this business of putting stuff in the trailer — a *lot* of stuff — that isn’t in the movie at all? If they can get away with “National Treasure”-style misrepresentation, what’s to stop other moviemakers from putting special effects, witty lines, exotic locales and hot-looking actors into *their* trailers, just to get us to go to a movie that doesn’t have any of those things?

“When Movies Don’t Live Up to the Trailer” [New York Times]