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Two R&B Classics Make 'Inherent Vice' Seem Even Funnier Video description
CULTURE ARTICLE

Two R&B Classics Make 'Inherent Vice' Seem Even Funnier

The plot and the actors are all very nice, but a movie trailer's impact often relies on its soundtrack. Let's explore the latest trailer tunes and see how well they're working.

This Week's Trailer: A nice long look at Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's zippy novel about a pothead detective investigating a kidnapping plot in Los Angeles. As with every PT Anderson movie, there's a sprawling cast of classy actors, including Joaquin Phoenix, Jena Malone, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, and Reese Witherspoon (who is in everything this year.) (In theaters December 12.)

This Week's Tunes: It's a pair of R&B classics! First, we hear "I Want to Take You Higher" by Sly and the Family Stone, then we transition to Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World."

How Literal Are They? Inherent Vice is set in 1970, so hits like these make perfect sense. You can imagine the characters listening to them in their Chryslers, looking for bellbottom jeans. (Which is what I imagine everyone was doing in 1970.) Plus, both songs make subtle jokes about the story: Phoenix's character, Doc Sportello, loves to smoke weed, so obviously he loves "I Want to Take You Higher." Then there's Cooke's super-romantic song, which is playing while the titles tell us that love always gets you into trouble. That helps set the cheeky tone.

How Emotional Are They? Y'all, I love PT Anderson's movies. Like… love. Even if this trailer were crappy, I'd still see the movie on opening weekend. But the trailer is awesome! It not only gives us a clear summary of a complicated plot, but also communicates how off-the-wall funny it's going to be.

I'm especially obsessed with the editing. Most of this preview features snippets of various scenes, with people saying one or two words at a time. But the way the pieces are spliced together, it seems like everyone's having a single conversation. It's an audacious move that makes me laugh, and the songs are used in a similar way. At :27, for instance, Sly sings "boom" just as a cop runs into Phoenix and knocks him down. A moment like that suggests the entire world of this movie is in on the joke and that every detail has been carefully accounted for. I love it when humor springs from that kind of discipline. It makes me feel like I can trust the artists to know what they're doing.

Meanwhile, the songs also tell us this movie is going to be laid back. If this crime caper had been scored with heavy metal, it might seem like a dark downer, you know? But Sly's funky beat and Cooke's gentle charm promise we don't have to take anything too seriously, which makes it easier to laugh at the lunacy.

Will We Associate Them With This Movie? Definitely not. The trailer is counting on us already knowing these songs.

Overall Trailer Tunes Effectiveness: Catchy hits convincing me I'm going to have a good time? YES    

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