Opinion: Sinking Feeling From Atlantis Work

I’m always interested in how ad people become film directors. But you tend to hear about the reverse scenario far less often. So, when I received a press release promoting film director Brett Ratner’s ad work for Atlantis, the Paradise Island resort, it got my attention.

All I really knew about Ratner I learned from an episode on Entourage. In it my favorite character, the hapless Johnny Drama, goes to a pool party in Ratner’s backyard in hopes of getting a part in the fictitious Rush Hour 3. (Cut to models in bikinis and thongs, and masseuses working on Kardashian-sister types.) Ratner, like a young Hugh Hefner, although dressed in the usual black, is there shooting a print ad. Holding a camera, he says to a model, “Marissa, you have the best ass. … Stick it out a little more.”

It’s cool that he can make fun of himself. (He is making fun of himself — I hope.) But we still also get, in one strained piece of dialog courtesy of Drama, the whole Ratner boy wonder career trajectory: He talked his way into a New York film school as a C student when he was 16, got Spielberg to pay to finish his student film, blah blah blah.

So it wasn’t surprising that the press release from the resort would be full of hype. It talked about the “renowned film director” and explained that Ratner and his “eponymous Brett Ratner Brands … led the creative development and production of the campaign, marking the first time Ratner has applied his talent as filmmaker, photographer and interactive producer to an overall marketing and ad campaign.”

Hey, the industry can use input from everywhere, so bring on the glamorous “Only in Atlantis.”

The surprise is how painfully average, almost generic, the TV spots are — except for the CGI parts, which look kind of cheap and cheesy. (See the spot here.) It does show off, from a family vacation POV, the resort’s amazing, fake Mayan architecture. There’s a nice shot from inside the huge spiral of a pool slide that looks like fun. But, really, Atlantis owner Sol Kerzner could have had his son-in-law shoot it for all the distinction the director brings to the mundane ideas. It has a Trumpian feel — advertising that only a resort and casino owner could love. The work also reminded me of some of the overblown but obvious solutions that Donald Trump’s apprentices tend to come up with when they get an advertising assignment on his reality show.

Perhaps Ratner originally tried for something else. Maybe in storyboard form the idea of a family of dolphins turning human as they get to shore and then walk on the beach seemed incredible. Here, it hardly brings the magic. It looks like something Disney could have done in the ’80s. And the second spot is totally unoriginal — including people jumping up and down in the casino.

The tagline, “Take a vacation worth celebration,” could apply to any travel advertising and seems particularly suited to cruise lines. Though no doubt, just showing the place and offering, as the announcer does, a free fourth night and free companion air fare will produce an uptick in business.

Of course, when the spot debuted on Entertainment Tonight there was also a segment featuring Ratner on the making of the ads, and ET viewers were invited to go to ETOnline to see an “exclusive director’s cut” (a 2-minute version).

There’s no doubt Ratner delivered some value for himself (he has other ad jobs in the works). The former rap video director could teach us all a lesson in, as he put it on Entourage, sticking it out a little more.