That was, without a doubt, one of the worst Super Bowls I can ever remember. Oh, sure, the game was just fine. Instant classic material, I guess. Two great quarterbacks, historic franchises, a great comeback that almost happened, plenty of drama in the last two minutes, and a brilliant storyline for Aaron Rodgers. It was one of the most gripping games you could ever ask for.
We all know the Super Bowl isn't about football; it's about all the other stuff that goes along with the biggest sporting event in America. I mean, let's face it: when your football game has a red carpet, something has gone awry. The Super Bowl is one percent game, ninety-nine percent television spectacle.
And that's where this one failed so miserably to deliver on its promises of entertainment gold. It began with Christina Aguilera (who is beginning to look oddly like Cyndi Lauper to me), leaving one of the lines out of the National Anthem. Turns out the line she left out was the lucky one. We had an horrific, I mean truly appalling, halftime performance from the Black Eyed Peas. And the most important part of any Super Bowl, the commercials, they were, to put it lightly, awful. Just awful.
I thought last year's batch of ads was bad. I know better now. If Super Bowl ads are usually the Cadillacs of the advertising world, last year's ads were a Pinto with a milk crate driver's seat. This year we have a cardboard box with the word CAR scribbled on the side in magic marker by a five year old who might be just a tad on the slow side and the R is backward. Oh, sure, it might seem cute at first, but the longer you look at it the more convinced you become that something just isn't right with that kid.
Still, it wasn't all bad, I suppose. There were a few ads which managed to be cute or memorable or just funny enough to stand above the crowd. Here, in no particular order, are the five good enough that I won't feel bad about remembering them. (Unlike, say, a certain former rap group who forced me to bleach my eyes after watching them perform.)
Volkswagen -- Darth Vader
It's on everyone's list, and there's a reason for that: it was actually good. You've got the incredibly cute kid in a Star Wars costume, the great music, the creepy doll that refuses to move even though it totally should, in a Chuckie movie sort of way. What really makes this ad great is the turn after the car starts up, when the kid finally realises his galactic destiny and desperately looks toward his parents, hoping they saw it too. The only downside to the ad is that the 30-second version shown on television really loses something compared to the full minute long ad.
Snickers -- Logging
I'll be honest with you: I kind of thought Richard Lewis was dead. So, you know, finding out he's not was a pleasant surprise. This one wasn't as brilliant as Betty White and Abe Vigoda, but it's got Rosanne Barr getting hit with a giant log, and that's enough to put it way up on my list any day.
Teleflora -- Help Me Faith
Because the word rack is funny. And because I actually remembered what the commercial was for fifteen minutes after I saw it, so they get bonus points for that.
Motorola XOOM -- Empower the People
I really, really like this one. I doubt it's on many people's best, but it should be. For one thing, the whole spot, beginning to end, was just absolutely gorgeous. For another, that girl is absolutely gorgeous. And for a third, it's a brilliant jab at the greatest Super Bowl ad ever, Apple's now-iconic 1984 spot. How often do you ever get to see such a subtle, well-crafted attack at a competitor as the very start of the spot, when we see the page turning on 1984? I thought everything about this ad was just dead perfect. Not only was it probably my favourite commercial of this year's Super Bowl; it was one of the best advertisements I can remember in years. Just brilliant. No, it won't stop me from buying an iPad instead of a XOOM, but kudos to Motorola for the commercial anyhow.
Chrysler 200 -- Imported from Detroit
No, this one wasn't funny. It didn't feature anyone getting hit in the crotch or head with a thrown can of anything. (Props to the Pepsi Max spot with the hot jogging girl for being the only decent example of the hit-in-the-head-with-something paradigm, by the way.) It didn't even feature particularly good music, to be honest. Eminem's "Lose Yourself" just doesn't have the same kind of effect as "Tiny Dancer", or even Bowie's "Changes" when you get right down to it.
What this commercial does have, though, is one of the boldest statements we've seen from one of the great companies of modern times. Of the Big Three American automakers, Chrysler was the one who fell the furthest, and has been the slowest to get back up off the mat. Ford has the Dirty Jobs guy and goes after imports head-to-head on features. GM has gone Chevy Heavy and pushes their innovations like the Volt. But Chrysler? They've been slow to figure out what kind of an identity they want to try and carve out.
Consider that identity carved.
I don't honestly know how well this new tack is going to work out for Chrysler, but it's a bold, unforgettable statement no matter the outcome. With this spot, Chrysler identified their company with the city that birthed them, a Detroit that could easily be mistaken for a war-torn Eastern European metropolis. The choice of Eminem was inspired as well; perhaps no other Detroit native has so wrapped their own identity in that of their city as has Eminem (well, I suppose Insane Clown Posse have, but they really don't rate nearly as well in the hierarchy of white rappers), and he represents the tough times and hard life Chrysler wanted to evoke with this spot.
It was pitch perfect, with faded glory and past icons serving as the backdrop for a declaration of what this company is all about. This wasn't just an advertisement for a new model of automobile; this was a former giant of industry forging a new identity it hopes will carry it back to glory. Plus, as someone who regularly drives by the now-empty and half demolished Chrysler plant in Fenton, I have to admit this particular ad hit me a bit harder than it might have some others.
And that's it. That's my list, and to be honest, there weren't many others I liked at all. Everyone else seems to like the Doritos spot with the pug dog, but I hate commercials with talking animals, talking babies (eff you, Etrade!), or animals acting like people. But that's just me.
Now please, Madison Avenue, can we have a better batch for next year? If the field stays as weak as this year, I may just have to give up on this whole Super Bowl thing entirely.