With 'Cosmetic Criminals,' E.L.F. Picks 'Mean Girls' Pockets

E.L.F. Cosmetics is good at catching incoming cultural waves and hopes it’s got its next viral hit riding on “Mean Girls” coattails.

In a first for the Oakland, California-based company, it’s made a 15-minute film. “Cosmetic Criminals” is set to stream on Amazon Freevee. The true-crime parody will have its theatrical debut ahead of Paramount’s upcoming “Mean Girls” movies in select AMC locations nationwide on January 12. E.L.F. claims it is the longest branded content film ever to air on a big screen.

The action focuses on an entire household of suspects, giving themselves plenty of leeway, alibis and reason to “borrow” various E.L.F. products. All the action encourages the ongoing refrain: “Who the E.L.F. did it?”



The company, which created a viral sensation last year by letting actor Jennifer Coolidge unleash her inner dolphin during the Super Bowl, says the project grew from social listening, with increasing references to “E.L.F. pinching.”

Directed by Oscar and Emmy award-nominee Alex (“Russian Doll”) Buono, the cast includes Niecy Nash Betts (“Reno 911!”); Nelson Franklin (“Veep”) and Necar Zadegan (“Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce”).

And, of course, E.L.F. is creating a merchandise drop to go with the film. Called Cosmetic Security, the three-piece solution for keeping products safe from theft features  a teddy bear, a faux planter and a hollowed-out book, written by Heidi N. Herre.

The debut of “Mean Girls,” Paramount’s musical reboot of the 2004 classic, keeps racking up the brand connections. In addition to Walmart’s holiday campaign, reuniting the cast, activations range from Coffeemate’s Mean Girls Pink Frosting Flavored Creamer to a Bucket Lister’s “Mean Girls Dining Experience,” popping up in Los Angeles and New York. Guests must navigate North Shore High School and eat “Burn Book Burger Sliders” and “Stab Caesar Salad.” Desserts include “Kälteen Brownie,” “Fetch Strudel,” and the “Is Butter a Carb? Cookies.”

Based on “Mean Girls” unaided brand awareness among women 25 and under, Deadline estimates the Tina Fey-scripted film is likely to open at more than $27 million over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

Meanwhile, it looks like E.L.F. cleared the playing field for beauty brands at the Super Bowl with last year's spot. Women's Wear Daily reports that NYX, owned by L’Oréal, is buying a 30-second ad in this year's Big Game, promoting its Duck Plump Extreme Plumping Gloss. 

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