This Week's Trailer: A new preview for The Judge, a drama that stars Robert Downey, Jr. as a lawyer who returns home to defend his father (Robert Duvall) against a murder charge. Pops is a fiery local judge with troubled family relationships, so expect everyone to face their personal demons on their way to court. And in case the two stars aren't prestigious enough, Billy Bob Thornton and Vera Farmiga play supporting roles. (In theaters Oct. 10)
This Week's Tune: "Hills to Climb," an alt-folk power ballad by Tim Myers, who used to be in OneRepublic. (He also co-wrote the song "Stardust" by Lena Meyer-Landrut, a German pop star who should have become a global sensation at least two years ago, if you ask me.)
How Literal Is It? I honestly don't know! If you take the music away, the story seems pretty damn bleak.
Sure, Downey's character jokes about his father's terrible parenting, but they're jokes that spring from hell. Mostly, we hear about how terrible the old man was and how he turned his kid into a narcissistic jerk. Meanwhile, the murder sounds really vicious, and because the prosecutor is played by Billy Bob Thornton, you have to assume he's an intimidating freak.
Conversely, "Hills to Climb" is capital-I inspirational, with its pounding acoustic guitar riff; shouted chorus of oh-oh-ohhhhhs; and rolling cascade of drums. It reminds me of Philip Phillips' "Home," which was the heartwarming soundtrack for the 2012 Olympics. It's jarring to think The Judge will make me cry like I do when a gymnast overcomes personal hardships to snag a gold medal on the parallel bars.
How Emotional Is It? Despite the dark story, this trailer makes me feel great. And that's because it's dominated by this song. So dominated, in fact, that sometimes it's hard to hear the actors over Myers' vocal. This suggests that no matter what we see here, The Judge is ultimately a feel-good story of redemption and love. Like... the conclusion probably includes a heartfelt courtroom speech from Downey's character, who fights back tears as he tells the jury that no, his father wasn't always a lovable man, but he was always a good man. And then Pops hugs his son for the very first time. And even Billy Bob Thornton pays begrudging respect to the winning side before he heads out of the courtroom.
Will We Associate It This Movie? The song defines the trailer's tone, so yes.
Overall Trailer Tunes Effectiveness: It depends. If The Judge is a redemptive courtroom movie, then this song is doing a great job. If it's more cynical than that, then we've been duped. I guess we'll find out soon enough.