The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Super Bowl movie ads: Who took home the trophy?

February 9, 2010 |  1:45 pm

Now that we know the Super Bowl broadcast had the biggest TV ratings ever, we can move on to more pressing concerns like -- who got the most money's worth out of their movie ads on the telecast?

Studios spend b-i-i-i-i-g bucks going after the biggest audience ever available to advertisers, but is all that outlay worth it if their ads don't deliver the goods? I was down with a nasty bug yesterday -- must've been all that New Orleans gumbo I had during the football game -- so here, better late than never, is a look at Hollywood's Super Bowl marketing winners and losers:

The biggest winner: "Alice in Wonderland" (opening March 5). This kid-friendly title was full of wonderful, arresting visual images, including exciting swordplay and Johnny Depp in a red fright wig, giving Disney a big leg up over the competition and reminding us that Tim Burton's "Alice" will be as distinctive and sly as all of the filmmaker's other best work. Who couldn't love seeing Helena Bonham Carter's imperious Red Queen using her pigs as a footstool?

The best of the rest: "Shutter Island" (Feb. 19). Full of spooky, smoky, fun-house images, this spot continues Paramount's effort to sell "Shutter Island" as a genre thriller, not just as a Leonard DiCaprio film. But the studio shrewdly hedged its bets by also going after the Martin Scorsese audience by plugging not one, not two, but six Scorsese titles during the ad, even though the creepy horror-film images on display make it feel a lot more like we're watching a Wes Craven movie.

Robin_Hood_Poster The biggest surprise: " Robin Hood" (May 14). You know it's a Ridley Scott movie right away from all of the fiery arrows being launched and the muddy warriors in full battle cry. But what really came as a surprise was how Universal made a big point of selling the story as being a look at the adventures of Mr. Hood (played by Russell Crowe) before he arrived in Sherwood Forest, showing us a hero who looks a lot more like a beefy crusader than a light-limbed adversary of the Sheriff of Nottingham. (I know the Super Bowl is a male-dominated event, but it was sort of sad to see the great Cate Blanchett reduced to two tiny glimpses--maybe she'll get better play in the ads Universal runs on the Lifetime Channel.)

The biggest disappointment: "The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" (May 28). Yikes! Judging from this overwrought ad and its blandly generic visual-effects images, you almost get the feeling that producer Jerry Bruckheimer didn't know what kind of story he really wanted to tell, so he just ripped off every enticing image he could find from "The Mummy," "Harry Potter," "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark." And while I know that actors aren't exactly the most important ingredient in an effects thriller, surely the best description for the presence of a long-haired Jake Gyllenhaal in this spot is ... miscast!

The worst of the worst: "The Wolfman" (Friday). Universal only bothered to buy a 15-second spot, which pretty much says it all when it comes to the level of expectations the studio has for this film. All we learn is that the movie is set in gloomy, Edwardian London, has Anthony Hopkins as a scenery-chewing mad physician and that the Wolfman can race along the roofs of London tenements at top speed. Oh, and that the film is rated R. I'd say the box-office prospects, based on this perfunctory spot, are as gloomy as London looked like back in the days before solar panels.

Photo of Helena Bonham Carter in "Alice in Wonderland" from Disney.