David Duchovny Daydreams of Life as a Russian in Beer Ad Exalting the Motherland

Serious? Satire? Lengthy spot tries for both

Is Special Agent Mulder looking to defect? In a decidedly unexpected career move, David Duchovny appears in this two-and-a-half minute rah-rah-Russia commercial for Siberian Crown beer.

The spot's schmaltzy patriotism and odd humor combine with Duchovny's earnest-yet-goofy acting style to create an entertaining viewing experience for the A-B InBev brand. Will you be hitting replay? Da! (It's topped 2 million YouTube views since posting late last week.)

We open on a stateside rooftop party among the beautiful people where the X-Files and Californication actor gets distracted by deeper thoughts: "There is another country where I got my family name from. And sometimes I wonder: What if things turned out differently? What if I were Russian?" (He's actually of Ukrainian/Polish/Scottish extraction … but close enough, and those probably fall under Putin's mental map of Russia, anyway.)

What follows is an extended montage that plays out like a Saturday Night Live spoof of a Central Committee propaganda reel. Our hero takes on a host of stereotypically Russian personae, including a cosmonaut, a hockey star (missing a tooth, naturally), a ballet choreographer and, most unsettlingly, the bass player in a Russian rock band, having a bad hair day on both his head and upper lip.

The intended tone seems to have been muddled in translation, or maybe the spot just feels awkward when viewed with American sensibilities. At times, the concept's clearly played for laughs, strictly tongue-in-cheek. Then, suddenly, it gets all heartfelt and serious. ("I found out that being Russian, I’d have many things to be proud of.")

Duchovny's performance heightens this schizophrenic effect. His approach is best described as Shatner-light: hammy, but on the lean side. He manages to be wink-wink self-conscious and intensely self-important at the same time.

It's also, of course, an awkward time for a Western icon to be aligning himself with Russia, whose government is perennially one of the world's least admired and is currently facing increased sanctions over its support of rebels in eastern Ukraine. But clearly this is not an ad aimed at foreigners, and Russians seem to be feeling just fine about how their government's being run.

All told, it's the kind of dubious escapade Dana Scully would've debunked ("Mulder, this commercial—Nyet!"), so it's a good thing she's not around to spoil the fun.