The Moviegoer

Ad-verse Effects

Think you already know what ''ATL'' is about, from the trailer? Think again, says Lisa Schwarzbaum

Lisa Schwarzbaum on deceptive trailers

You know how sometimes you watch a movie trailer on TV, and you know without a doubt that you're seeing everything you need to know about the entire story, compacted into 90 seconds? And you know you might as well skip the 90-minute version, because if the trailer contains the best stuff, then what's left to fill the not-so-best spaces? (Yes, I'm talking about Failure to Launch.)

The trailer for ATL that's been popping up all over the place this past week isn't that kind of promotional killjoy, but it's something just as confounding — an ad that hides the movie's biggest asset: Contrary to what you see on TV, this is a movie about roller-skating. That's right — while the coming attractions hint at inner-city trouble and rudderless young men, about the most dangerous activity most of them engage in is the flashy choreography with which teams of young African-American Atlantans zip around an '80s-style rink.

Why keep such joy a secret? (The skate-offs are the best thing in the movie.) Why make the title such a translation challenge? (It's pronounced aaayyy teee elll, as in the abbreviation for Atlanta, not attul, which sounds like the next generation in computer programming.)

Well, I've spilled the beans.

Originally posted Mar 29, 2006