If like me you’ve been both surprised and baffled by the positive early reviews G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra has received, then be baffled no more. Why all the positive buzz? It could be because Paramount is inviting only the critics most likely to praise it, to see it. At least that seems to be what’s intimated by a story being run in the LA Times.

Their story talks in depth about how Paramount has decided to ditch film critics and traditional pre-release promotion of the film in favor of an approach which can only really be summed up as redneck pandering. Instead of advertising it on television or promoting it in print or screening it for general film critics to discuss, they’ve been pushing the movie on army bases, at Kid Rock concerts, during Country music events, and at malls in “red states”.

Even if you’re like me and in a red state, there’s a good chance you’ve seen precious little promotion for the film, unless of course you’re a gigantic hillbilly. I don’t hang out at gun ranges so to me it looks like Paramount has decided to promote The Goods instead of G.I. Joe. My television and radio are flooded with ads for their farther off Jeremy Piven movie, while there’s barely a whisper in the traditional movie advertising outlets which you’d expect to be used in promoting Joe.

And then of course there’s the aforementioned film critics. Paramount isn’t screening it for the press. According to their reps, anyone who’s seen it did so only as part of special screenings to which most of us weren’t invited. And surprise surprise, almost all of the special people invited to special screenings liked it. I’m not suggesting that critics who have seen it early, like Harry Knowles, have been in any way corrupted. Instead Paramount simply has a good idea of which critical voices are most likely, based on their past opinions, to give it a pass and so they’ve invited those instant fans to see it.

It’ll be interesting to see how this works out. Personally I’m predicting failure. Marketing a movie to only a tiny segment of the population rarely pays off. You’d expect geeks to be G.I. Joe’s primary audience for instance, but the movie had practically zero presence at this year’s Comic Con and Paramount seems to have chosen Joe Dirt as their only potential ticket buyer. Will the Dirts of the world be enough? I doubt it.

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