Barbara Lippert’s Critique

Maybe it’s because I missed it on the big screen and instead watched it, via the magic of Blockbuster and my little Sony, from the couch. But if there were ever a movie that needed serious taking down, it’s the Oscar-winning, internationally acclaimed feature Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Sure, it’s poetic, it’s balletic, it of fers mesmerizing cinematography and a window into ancient Chinese culture. There’s the spiritual journey and the female-empowerment message. There’s also, in its overblown, cartoony plot, a motherlode of film clichés and some lines that are complete howlers. “Stop talking to me like a monk! Start fighting!” is an example, along with the equally great, “You dog! You’ll pay for your stubbornness!” (The big villain, Jade Fox, is a dragon lady straight out of Power Rangers.)

With its haunting music, parched landscape and constant fights be tween the good guys and bad guys—not to mention the strangely translated English subtitles—Crouching Tiger seems to fit all the conventions of another genus: Could it be the first spaghetti eastern? (Udon adventure?) Instead of Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name, we get Iron Arm Mi and Flying Saber Crane. Tiger actually was inspired by the Chinese film genre called Wuxia, which has been around for the last 40 or so years.

That’s all the better to create a recognizable style for the Mountain Dew dudes to kick around. For the last few years, the spots have featured the action-adventures of four scruffy, slacker, extreme-sport snow- and street-boarder types. Lately, in a hilarious series of de tailed mega-productions, the dudes have taken on the reality/na ture oeuvre (kid butting heads with a ram), alien/horror films (the aliens dump the guys back on the ground) and even martial-arts movies (there was a spot featuring Jackie Chan). The spots are dude-centric, to be sure, but there also have been a few featuring grrls, the dudes’ fe male equivalents. (Given the lameness of Pepsi and Coke’s Britney/Christina op tions, I think Mountain Dew should hire Björk as a spokes-oddity.)

The Crouching Tiger spot artfully taps key components of the movie—female heroines, Zorro-like swordplay, flying, poison darts, the imparting of mystical wisdom—and is so dazzlingly shot by Tarsem (in Beijing) that it bounces off the screen with intensity and authenticity but manages to be funny, too.

The spot opens with two women facing off in a courtyard. “It is a story of desire,” the subtitle says with just the right amount of woodenness. “It is a quest for Dew.” We soon realize that the flying sword goddesses are dueling not over a priceless weapon but, rather, over a can with carbonation. The choreography is enchanting, considering that the two warriors have to re main can-connected. By the end, they are sprung from the can, so to speak, by the four Mandarin dudes, lined up on the roof as palace guards. One aims a blow dart right to the heart of the can, causing two streams to shoot out, each spouting into one woman’s mouth. The women lift their heads up to the gods and drink.

“It is better to have half a Dew,” we read as the narrator solemnly intones in Mandarin, “than no Dew at all.” There’s always a kicker in these Dew commercials, even if they were al ready funny enough: Here the “Do the Dew” slogan is written in Mandarinized English letters, which completely seals the deal.

That the creative team could squeeze the quest/fire/swordplay/ slap ping/flying and final piece of wisdom into 30 seconds is pretty miraculous. The footage really begs for a 60, especially the flying parts, which were done, as in the movie, with wires and 60-foot cranes.

To quote Crouching Tiger, “The sword, by itself, rules nothing. It comes alive only with skillful manipulation.” Same with advertising, man. As this spot proves, the Dew can live by the sword.