This summer’s biggest waste of marketing dollars? Harry Potter & The Simpson’s Movie

hansThere was no point in spending a dime on advertising for either one. Marketing them was like doing PR for YouTube: Sit there and watch the fish jump in your boat. That said, co-branding with these two things was a GREAT idea. I was down in Orlando last week and went to one of the 7-Eleven’s that were rethemed as a Kwik E Mart and I loved it. All they did was throw up some signs and boom! A hit was born. (I’ll post my pics at some point in the future. Best signage was the one of Hans Moleman frozen in the ice machine). Place was mobbed.

I haven’t seen any co-branding with HP & The Deathly Hallows, has anyone else?

Quick reviews (without spoilers):

Harry Potter & The Great Big Bags of Cash: The final HP was too long by about a third but better than I expected it to be. The actual writing, i.e. sentence structure and syntax, was much better than in the last two. In 5 &6 I approached each sentence concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find my way out once I started in. There were several things that seemed invented just for book seven — like a certain species’ use of a different type of magic — that felt like they were there only because the author had painted herself into a corner. Apparently Ms. Rowling feels that having characters wander around pointlessly builds tension or something.

Simpson’s Movie: It’s about a B to B+ episode. At 1.5 hrs long, it doesn’t suffer from the bloat and padding that seems to go along with most movies of TV shows. Also they didn’t let it get over run by guest stars. Tom Hanks is great and I was quite pleased to see Green Day go down with the ship. My only real complaint is that we were promised screen time for ALL the secondary characters and I do believe they missed one: God. The bearded one was conspicuously absent. Next time guys. Also, I want more musical numbers.

The Da Vinci news

To pretty much no one’s surprise, reviews for the “Code” are in and are tepid at best (OK, so this one is from the “Catholic News Service,” you don’t think they’d hold a grudge do you?). Imagine my surprise. That said there is some actual news relating to the book that makes Tom Clancy look like a good writer:

  1. “Da Vinci” unites Indian Muslims and Christians In India, “Islamic clerics promised to help Christian groups launch protests if the authorities did not ban the screening of the controversial film.” Let’s try to show it in Iraq and see if that does any good. Can’t really make things worse. I for one am willing to join any protest over the quality of the writing in the book. And Tom Hank’s hair.
  2. Reading “Da Vinci Code” does alter beliefs: surveyThe Da Vinci Code has undermined faith in the Roman Catholic Church and badly damaged its credibility, a survey of British readers of Dan Brown’s bestseller showed on Tuesday.” Reading a book will change your beliefs? Somewhere Martin Luther is laughing his anti-Semitic butt off.

People are now twice as likely to believe Jesus Christ fathered children after reading the Dan Brown blockbuster and four times as likely to think the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei is a murderous sect.

Well, it has certainly altered my faith. My faith in the fact that I had a rough idea of how credulous people are.

Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell TOM HANKS?

Having Carl Kassel's voice on your answering machine is a great thing, trust me. I won this cherished item by correctly answering 4 (count 'em FOUR) questions* about the news on NPR's quiz show Wait, Wait … Don't Tell Me. More than once I have received messages about how cool a thing it is from people who have called the wrong number. And once a wrong number even called back to hear it again. Carl Kassel's voice is, in fact, more popular than I am. Several times I have received a phone call from a friend who said, in a disappointed voice, "oh … you're home. I wanted to hear the message. If I call back, do you mind not answering?"

(I won this wonderful prize back in the golden age of American political humor. The great thing about the Monica Lewinsky scandal was that whatever your position you could easily admit that this was just a freaking weird thing to be arguing about. And, oh yeah, it didn't really matter because, as we all realized later, no one died as a result.)

I am not just a WW…DTM winner, I am a devotee. I have listened to it since it first hit the air and try to never miss it. The rest of the Collateral Damages know that on Saturday between noon and 1 (when it airs on WBUR) dad is not to be bothered even if the house is on fire. When the show first hit the air, the only guests they could get were other NPR personalities whom, I can only guess, owed the producers money. In time the producers were able to get people who weren't on their payroll to appear. I remember how slack-jawed with awe host Peter Sagal was when they got their first semi-celeb, actress Martha Plimpton. A fine actress to be sure but not exactly someone who can, as they say, open a movie.

So it was I who was slack-jawed this week when I found out that the guest was none other than … Tom Hanks, who could probably fund NPR on an annual basis with what he leaves on his dresser at night. No surprise that Hanks was very funny, he does do that well. However it was Paula Poundstone who comedically topped everyone else with a one-word answer about beverages served in certain government buildings. Wow, that's all. Just wow.

*And I remain to this day the only person ever to go 4-for-4 on the show. Not that I'm bragging or anything… Odd thing: people who listen to the show frequently ask me how I was able to get on. Well, I did something very tricky and insider (since I used to work for a part of NPR, I know these things) but which I will now share with you: I called the friggin' number. Shhhhh. Let's just keep that between us.