Monday, June 08, 2015

perfect little movies

Apparently, although it's still young, the summer movie season isn't quit good enough for Hollywood. I mean, the powers who run the movie industry have noted that "Avengers: Age of Ultron" has amassed only $438 million domestically, far short of its predecessor's $623 million. 


Maybe the problem is that modern movies just that aren't good enough. To generalize, most of them are trivial and yet extremely bloated. 

The studios have yet to learn that, sometimes, smaller is better.  Case in point: The current breed of television commercials.  They might not have the gravitas of something presented on an IMAX screen but they're light and engaging in a way that evades modern movies.  And some are compulsively watchable.  Three come to mind - the 30-second ads for State Farm Insurance, Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner and Progressive Insurance, the latter repped by the incorrigible Flo, memorably played each time by comedienne Stephanie Courtney (left).

Few current comedies are as well-written, well-directed or well-acted as State Farm's witty "State of Unrest" (aka, "Jake from State Farm") ad, starring Justin Campbell as an innocent husband, Melanie Paxson as his supicious wife and Jake Stone, who actually works for State Farm.

The tightly-plotted ad opens with Campbell, dressed in pajamas and in his living room, on the phone with Jake, talking insurance.  It's three in the morning when Paxson barges unexpectedly into the room, thinking her husband is talking to another woman. And she's determined to find out.

Matters do sound fishy. Here it is:

Campbell (talking on the phone): "Yeah, I’m married. Does it matter? You’d do that for me? Really? Yeah, I’d like that."

Paxson (bargng in): "Who you talking to?!"

Campbell: "Uh, it’s Jake, from State Farm."  (getting back to Jake) "Sounds like a really good deal."

Paxson: "Jake from State Farm at 3 in the morning?" (grabs the phone from her husband) "Who is this?!"

Campbell: "It’s Jake ... From State Farm"

Paxson: "What are you wearing (making an air quote with her free hand) 'Jake from State Farm'?"

Jake (sitting in the State Farm customer service call center): "Uh, Khakis."

Paxson (to husband): "She sounds hideous!"

Campbell: "Well, she’s a guy, so..."

The commercial ends with an announcer stating, "Another reason why more people stay with State Farm. Get to a better state."

It's a gem - and an effective one, given that State Farm is mentioned four times in 30 seconds. And the timing of Paxson and Campbell is flawless.

Note in Passing: Melanie Paxson, who trained with Second City and performed with the Steppenwolf Theater troupe, previously acted under the name Melanie Deanne Moore.  She is married to Andy Paxson.

The Progressive ads, meanwhile, have turned Flo/Courtney into a minor icon. There's a new one seemingly every week and each one has been singular.  Arguably the best is the one modeled after an "After School Special," with Flo comforting an Progressive rep who didn't make a sale and tries to cheer him up by offering to buy him an ice cream cone.

"With sprinkles?," the guy asks.

Without missing a beat, Flo responds, matter-of-factly: "Sprinkles are for winners." Courtney's dry delivery is perfect.

Finally, there's the adorable Scrubbing Bubbles ad, titled "Behind Closed Bathroom Doors," with two little sisters washing a small, filthy stray dog in the family bathtub.  "He's so cute!," they squeal about the pathetic little creature which looks remotely like a drenched gremlin.

When their parents hear the commotion in the bathroom and come in, the two girls plead in unison, "Can we keep him? ... Ple-e-e-se?"

A nice touch: the dad lets out a small scream when he sees the dog.

Or the mess.


Charlotte said...

All these commercials are great. I believe that a director named David Jellison was responsible for the Scrubbing Bubbles ad. Not sure. I'd really like to know who directed these "perfect little movies."

Alex said...

Melanie Paxson does a lot of commercials and movies and she's always memorable. Perhaps her best movie role was as Dolly, Walt Disney's secretary in "Saving Mr. Banks."

Rebecca said...

These are delightful ads. Thank you.

Sheila said...

“Avengers: Age of Ultron" has earned 438 million stateside and it isn't enough? Exactly how much money do Hollywood studios need? They’ve lost all perspective. All that money spent on and derived from stupid, stupid movies.

Nancy said...

Every time I visit your blog, I admire the design. I like the Subaru commercials with the Barkley family.

k.o. said...

I've been out of the US advert loop for over 20 years since leaving in 1994. But I quite like the State Farm one in this series. Perfect little film. When I do go to the States, I am mesmerized by the adverts for medications. The counte-reffects of the meds sound worse than the initial problem! Oh, then there's the reverse mortgages ads (I think Henry Winkler was in one). One I saw over and over again when I was in San Antonio last year was some old geezer talking about the Reagan years and explaining why a reverse mortgage is so great -- I never understood the premise but it sounds like a scam on old folks.
The TV adverts in the UK were better -- there was one with Bob Hoskins for British Telecom that was brief and he just said, "It's good to talk." The ones I see in Mexico are generally produced for Lever Bros. products in Argentina. Very 1950s with mother/wife trying to make her family happy while staying beautiful at the same time.

Brian Lucas said...

Thank you for saying what I have been silently thinking for years now. That "State Farm" ad is funnier than the recent comedies of Vince Vaughn and Will Farrell, who could once be counted on for a fun time at the movies but now seem to be straining because they are just too old for the hijinks they repeat in film after film after film.

Pattycakes31 said...

These ARE like little movies. I never thought of them in that way. I give these all 4 stars and thumbs-up!