Barbara Lippert’s Critique: The Morning After

uper Bowl XLI: the pain, the glory—the Teutuls!

How the loud, tattooed men from TLC’s American Chopper ended up in $5 million (give or take) worth of Super Bowl commercials is a mystery to me, but then again, perhaps they embody the zeitgeist: they customize stuff and love being on camera.

And speaking of dysfunctional, tell me if you’ve heard this one: Guy walks down the hallway of an office and opens the door to the marketing department. Wait, wait, here’s the joke: the “marketing” department, in this case, featured in a spot for domain registration site GoDaddy, consists of a roomful of people having a wild party with a convincing strip club vibe. Attendees include GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons, Indy car star Danica Patrick (why, Danica, why?), a “little person” and the Teutuls—Paul Sr., Junior and Mikey—who at least get to act as judges with scorecards as they watch Candice Michelle dance and get showered in champagne. Michelle is the original GoDaddy girl who, in the first SB commercial for the company two years ago, popped her strap while testifying before “Congress.” That spot’s framework of making fun of the hypocrisy of censorship at least gave it an idea, whereas this year, focusing on a rack does not a Super Bowl commercial make. This one is just sad, especially since, with two years of GoDaddy fame under her belt, Michelle’s face is barely recognizable. She looks all porned out. Grade: D

New this year to the Super Bowl, Garmin, a maker of global positioning systems, is another high-tech advertiser with a necessarily complex story to tell. And they found a way to spin it without a wet T-shirt contest! Instead, it uses a big idea comically told.

The spot begins with a clueless motorist who, finding himself lost, unfurls a map. Maps are unwieldy, we all know that, and this one takes over the car and turns itself into a monster—a “Maposaurus.” Meanwhile, another driver turns into a superhero in a silver suit who battles it out with the monster in a campy fight set to the epic, narrative rhythms of a heavy metal band fronted by a caveman-like Steve Grimmett of Lionsheart. It’s a funny, over- the-top idea, and I like the cheesy, attention-getting special effects, a mix of 1950s Japanese monster movies and all the cheap wizardry and bad acting of the 1990s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. But at first I didn’t get that the Maposaurus was the enemy—he seems friendly and harmless, so much so that I thought he could be the Garmin device. Grade: B+, with the plus coming from the cleverness of the microsite.

From the epic battle we move to another genre: the anthem. Now, I’m not necessarily a fan of anthemic commercials since they usually turn out to be sort of fake, bland and generic, and that’s when they’re good. Chevy’s previous anthem with the John Mellencamp music was completely wrongheaded—it’s never a bright idea to combine car sales with the image of Rosa Parks. (If only Rosa had owned an Impala …)

But I found this Super Bowl spot high-spirited and delightful. A simple idea, well produced, it mixes cuts of car and stars, and also uses some actual Chevro-lated American music in a clever, organic way. It pops right out of the gate with Mary J. Blige’s a capella rendition of “Buy You a Chevrolet,” and continues strong with Big and Rich’s “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy,” then on to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his Corvette while “(We’re Not) the Jet Set” by George Jones and Tammy Wynette plays on the soundtrack. (The line after that is “We’re the Chevrolet set,” with the last syllable of “Chevrolet” pronounced like “ambulette.”) The look is effortlessly diverse and the tone feels authentic. Grade: A-

“Don’t worry, I’ve never heard of me, either,” has been the comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan’s opening line for his stand-up act. He won’t be able to say that much longer, as he’s now part of the improv group the Mis-stakes in two Super Bowl spots for Sierra Mist.

By far the most memorable and funniest one is “Combover.” The idea seems to take something from the dark, hilarious Skittles commercial that showed a guy using his beard as an appendage to stroke his interviewer, but the combover addition brings a certain je ne sais quoi. And Gaffigan is pitch-perfect as the office worker getting fired for what he thinks is his offbeat growth of facial/cranial hair. He makes a joke (“Suddenly there’s some norm that I don’t get”) and walks out—showing off the short shorts and scary black and massive old-fashioned roller skates. It’s sure to appeal to the 12-17 set, and I’ve got to say it made me laugh. Perhaps if this guy is looking for work, he can meet up with Mikey Teutul and form a garage band. Grade A-