Guest Critic

Most of the July Best Spots were OK. There just wasn’t a lot of greatness this month. Which got me thinking, why is the movieWedding Crashers doing better than Michael Bay’s The Island? Maybe audiences have overdosed on special effects and pyrotechnics. And if all these effect-driven ideas have made movies mind-numbing, they are certainly no better in a 30-second commercial. Unfortunately, that’s how I felt watching the Adidas spot “Impossible Field.” It’s a perfectly well-made commercial, one that I may have paid attention to 10 or 15 years ago. But now, it just feels like so many green-screened, special-effect-type productions. I also feel that Nike has done it better with wittier premises. So while I’m sure some people will think it’s cool, I felt bored.

The “Lazaridis” spot for American Express with blackboards showing up in odd locations is attention-getting. I had high hopes for this spot, but after a dramatic opening, the ending kind of fizzles. Smart, but not great. I would have to watch the commercial again to see the connection back to American Express.

The Dunkin’ Donuts commercial called “12 Hungry Men” also starts out promisingly. A juror can’t convict or does convict (I don’t remember) a defendant based on the fact that he couldn’t be at the crime scene because Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t serve lunch. Then he sees a cameraman eating lunch from Dunkin’ Donuts and realizes that he has made a mistake. OK, (this I remember) you can now get some kind of lunch at Dunkin’ Donuts. So it does get the product sell across, but by the end, the spot isn’t funny or likeable, and it feels familiar. There’s a classic Volkswagen spot where Charlie Chan realizes that the suspect who can’t drive a stick could be the criminal because now Volkswagens have automatic sticks. Circa late ’60s, early ’70s. The big difference being that the “Chan” spot is humorous and memorable.

You’re probably thinking that I don’t like anything, or that everything seems old to me. Well, here’s one that is retro and very likeable. “Home” for MasterCard is an excellent baseball tribute without using athletes or special effects. The spot shows kids all over the world playing baseball, using anything they can find for bases. Cars, folding chairs, etc. It not only rings true but shows that the MasterCard campaign still has legs.

Motorola’s “Strip Tease” is funny and sexy. But I’m not sure if the point is to demonstrate live video or to remind you to always take your cell phone with you. Probably both.

“Kid Tiger” with young Tiger Woods is classic Nike. Smart, tasteful music, and well-produced. Just the opposite of the Puma “Sooofast-Dancers” spot. I applaud the fact that Puma tried to do an athletic shoe commercial without athletes, but after watching this commercial, I wanted to give my Pumas to my great aunt and go buy another pair of Nikes.

My favorites: the ESPN “Bassmaster” spots. Maybe it’s because I just took up fishing, but I think this campaign is funny and insightful.

Finally, since there isn’t that much going on in theaters or television right now, and I’m feeling a little nostalgic, my recommendation for summer viewing is to rent or buy classic Sid Caesar/Your Show of Shows videos. No special effects. Just one-wall, black-and-white sets, great writing and wonderful comic acting. I promise it’s a lot more entertaining than standing in line to watch a big, bad blow ’em up.