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Dumb marketing gets in way of smart movie

So here’s the movie plot: A director recasts his lead actress in a film as a fully computer-generated blond beauty and tries to pass her off as a recluse.

So here’s the marketing ploy: “And introducing Simone as herself.”

In New Line Cinema’s latest release, Simone, starring model Rachel Roberts as the title character, the ending credits try to pass off the gimmick as real.

In other words, while the movie is about a guy who passes off something fake as something real, the studio is attempting to pass off something real as something fake.

It’s a classic case of life-imitating-art-imitating-stupidity.

New Line Cinema even went so far as to impose a two-year-long gag order on Roberts. According to published Associated Press reports, she wasn’t allowed to tell her friends she was in the movie. All of this because some number-crunching goons thought it would be funny to pass her off as a complete pixilated creation of the studio, which is producing a film about a director who does the opposite. I wonder what hand the real director, Andrew Niccol, had in all of this.

For the satirical writer of Gattaca, The Truman Show and Simone, Niccol seems to like delving into a futuristic world where technology breeds creation – some ambitiously intelligent material, if anything.

How ironic then, that such a lame-brained concoction was used in the marketing for Simone.

Apparently, the advertising campaign never came to fruition – well, I never once thought the actress playing Simone was really supposed to be a computer – but it’s embarrassing for this kind of news to hit just as the film opens. It certainly didn’t help the box office – Simone only grossed $3.8 million in its opening weekend.

But not all of the let’s-fool-the-audience marketing ploys have produced negative results.

The low-budget phenom Blair Witch Project attempted a similar tactic, and it’s paid off handsomely. But then there was a backlash when fans of the film learned the three documentary-filmmaker characters were actually actors, and the whole shebang – including the Artisan film studio-produced Sci-Fi Channel documentary – was nothing more than an elaborate hoax.

But the real question is: Why do film studios feel the need to fool us? Why can’t a movie – based on its merits as a film alone – simply be released without the fuss of a silly, overblown marketing ploy?

Just tell us who’s in it, give us a tease of what it’s about, and try not to hit us over the head with some kind of supposedly brilliant scheme to get our tushes in the seats.

For the record, I thought Blair Witch was absolutely brilliant, and Simone was delightfully funny, despite what other critics are saying.

But hey, that’s just my opinion, man.

n Contact Will Albritton at