McDonald's and Burrell Communications update a classic Super Bowl spot from 1993, pitting Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens and Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers, the opposing quarterbacks from the big game in February, against each other in a contest for the chain's Mighty Wings. Their competition features improbable passes through distant goalposts. First one to miss watches the winner eat.
The original commercial starred Larry Bird and Michael Jordan playing a game of Horse for a Big Mac. Their increasingly crazy contest took them from a basketball arena to the top of Chicago's Sears Tower as Jordan called a fantastical shot: "Off the expressway, over the river, off the billboard, through the window, off the wall …"
That tale was self-contained, and fittingly, there was no winner, giving the impression that the two titans would battle for all eternity, ultimately bouncing balls off the moon and stars in their quest for a burger. (Luckily, McDonald's food would still be in decent condition no matter how long they played.) The reboot has two parts. The first 30-second installment (posted below) breaks on TV tonight and ends on a cliffhanger, as a power failure throws the quarterbacks into darkness—"Oh man, not again!"—and someone apparently tries to make off with their box of wings. Who could it be? Jordan and/or Bird? Tim Tebow? Miley Cyrus? (OK, we know it's not Tebow.) The revelation comes in Part 2, set to air Oct. 6.
Marlena Peleo-Lazar, chief creative officer at McDonald's USA, calls the remake "a fresh take on an idea our customers have loved, but in a sport they haven't seen us do it with." That's all well and good, and the effort is certainly getting buzz. Still, a remake with stars from a different sport was hardly necessary. And regardless of the big reveal, and even with original director Joe Pytka behind the camera, it was doomed to pale by comparison with the original commercial.
Don't get me wrong. The new ad is well-made and amusing … but Bird and Jordan, in this context, cannot be replaced. They were more than great athletes. They were transcendent figures who helped define the popular culture of their generation. Flacco and Kaepernick are gifted on-field performers, and seem like nice enough guys, but they lack the stature and quite frankly, the charisma of their predecessors. The 1993 spot felt right because you really could picture Larry and Michael playing a little one-on-one for their personal edification, sans cameras, ribbing each other for each missed shot. Flacco and Kaepernick, well, I guess they'd have a throwing contest if McDonald's paid them lots of money to do it in a commercial.
Plus, the blackout, echoing the one that stopped Super Bowl XLVII for 30 minutes, and the "To be continued" aspect feel like cutesy gimmicks added to compensate for the new spot's inability to match up to its inspiration.
If Bird and Jordan don't make an encore appearance in Part 2, it would be disappointing, because that's what the setup demands. If they do, it could seem pat and predictable. The original was nothing but net. So far, the remake feels like an incomplete pass.