THE BLOG
11/05/2012 12:52 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

The Drive Dilemma: False Advertising at the Movies

Last year, a Michigan woman sued the distributors of the movie Drive for false advertising. As movie trailers have to be brief, the scenes in the trailer were edited together to make the film look somewhat faster than it actually was. So she was expecting an action movie, but was instead greeted with perhaps the artiest, most slow-paced crime thriller that Hollywood has ever released. For what it's worth, I liked it. But even if I didn't, I don't tend to sue whenever I'm disappointed with a film.

What next? From now on, if a movie tries to do anything even slightly unpredictable, someone can sue the studio because it wasn't what they expected? Could someone have sued Hitchcock because they were expecting Janet Leigh to make it to the end of Psycho? Could someone sue the makers of Casablanca because they expected a happy romance in which Bogart and Bergman to stay together? Maybe cinemas will soon make audience members sign a form before they enter the cinema, saying: "I believe that I have sufficient information on this movie, and will take personal responsibility for my enjoyment of it."

Still, if cinema-goers insist on lawsuits, I can think of a few more deserving movies over the years, including a few advertisements that are plain misleading.

Alien (1979): "In space no one can hear you scream," claimed the famous ads. Scientifically, that's actually true. Still, the movie has moments in which sound can be clearly heard in the vacuum of space.

Amadeus (1984): "Everything you've heard is true," says the tagline for this historically inaccurate film that forever besmirched the name of its lead character (Antonio Salieri, I mean).

49 Up(2005): A solid British documentary, following the lives of various people every seven years. No, it's not a blockbuster. The advertising was mostly accurate, unless you read one of the bills that boasted "From the director of The World is Not Enough." Sure, director Michael Apted also made a James Bond film, but if you're looking for something Bond-like, do not watch this! It can be one of the most misleading ways to advertise a film: associate the writer/producer/director/star with a completely different film they once made.

Monsters (2010): A sweet romance and road movie. This is worth watching, but you probably didn't because of all the people who saw it expecting a sci-fi horror flick (check out that title), then talked about how disappointing it was.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011): Perhaps the greatest piece of false advertising of the past year. But the trailers, the poster, even the title suggest that this is a Sherlock Holmes movie. Anyone who has read one of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, or even seen any of the other versions of Sherlock Holmes on screen, would know that this action flick has very little in common with Holmes. It's even less Holmesian than its predecessor, Sherlock Holmes, which was also basically a punch-up film set in Victorian London (though at least that one had some kind of plot).