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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Watch out! 'The Dilemma's' 'gay joke' trailer is still playing in theaters

October 14, 2010 |  1:14 pm

Ron_howard As you have probably heard by now, Universal Pictures has been forced to pull its trailer promoting upcoming comedy "The Dilemma" after it received a deluge of complaints from moviegoers -- most famously CNN's Anderson Cooper. The newsman and others say they were offended by a joke delivered by Vince Vaughn, who in the course of describing an electric car, says, "It's gay." But has Universal really pulled the trailer? I've received a raft of e-mails from readers around the country who have said that the trailer is still playing in movie theaters, even though Universal had promised last Friday that it would be pulled immediately.

What's going on here? As it happens, what Universal really said last week was that it would immediately post a new trailer online. Getting exhibitors to pull a trailer from brick-and-mortar movie theaters turns out to be a lot more complicated. Universal marketers say they have instructed the exhibition community to stop using the earlier trailer, but as a spokesperson put it, "That has to happen on a theater-by-theater basis, and it isn't the kind of thing that happens instantaneously. The new trailer will begin appearing in theaters this Friday and we believe at that time the old trailer will no longer appear anywhere."

The whole episode has been a PR nightmare for Universal, which still hasn't revealed whether the joke has been taken out of the film itself. The person most unhappy about the controversy has got to be "Dilemma" filmmaker Ron Howard, who must know by now that when he starts doing publicity for the movie later this year, he's going to be talking about controversy instead of comedy.

In fact, I suspect that the first question -- well, make that first five questions -- from every reporter with a functioning brain will be: So why was that joke in the movie? Was it in the script or was it a Vince Vaughn ad lib? Did you think it wasn't offensive? Will comedy be neutered if everyone gets to complain about every potentially offensive joke in every comedy that's made? And what do you have against electric cars, anyway? 

And just to add insult to injury, most of the people I've talked to this week think the new "Dilemma" trailer isn't as funny as the old one. But take a look and decide for yourself:  


Photo: Ron Howard at the Academy Awards in 2009 at the Kodak Theater. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times