HP’s Baby Driver Hits Fast Lane

Call him “Speed face.” As the bald-headed, purse-lipped star of a mesmerizing new spot from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for HP e-printers, this baby is shown zooming across the country’s highways and byways, in his walker, smoking a cigar. Just kidding about the cigar, of course, but the humor comes from the preposterous (obviously CGI-enabled) juxtaposition of this adorable shoeless innocent, tiny feet flapping, zipping past cars and trucks in his green-bottomed wheelie.

Think of The Straight Story, the movie about a guy riding a tractor across some states to visit his brother, spliced with a Road Runner cartoon. Then make it about 2 billion times cuter.

But “Happy Baby” is more than just a fun, amusingly realized idea. It’s gorgeously shot and produced. The image of the baby reflected in the side of a big, gleaming oil truck is High Noon-worthy. It’s also wonderfully cast. The baby isn’t exactly a Gerber tyke — more like half-baby/half old-soul, with amazingly expressive eyes. The ad was made by filming twins against green screen — and Biscuit director Noam Murro and DP Simon Duggan actually filmed the backgrounds from sea to shining sea.

The song, “Brand New Key” by Melanie, was a hit in 1972. I never liked it, but this context strips it of all weird innuendo, and with the march of time, the off-kilter boop-boop-be-doop cutesiness works well in concert with the movement depicted here. And the wacky lyrics actually make the same point as the serious payoff: You-got-a-brand-new-baby, I-got-a-brand-new-printer, I think we should try them out and see.

Each printer has a unique e-mail address, so to print from it you just send an e-mail, even from mobile devices. Pretty exciting.

So the spot is indeed about more than cute baby tricks: it’s about the rebirth of printing. Very “why 1984 won’t be like 1984,” without all the marching and socialism. But actually, I could watch this baby go forever, with the wind at his onesie.