For members of Generation X, Honda's ( HMC) Super Bowl ad is infuriating on many levels. Its first offense is taking the premise of one of its beloved teen movies -- from the John Hughes canon, no less -- and applying it to the rote Hollywood life of its star Matthew Broderick. What made Ferris Bueller's Day Off so successful wasn't Broderick, Ben Stein's monotone or even, the city of Chicago, but its overarching theme that there's a big world out there for the taking if you're just willing to go out once in a while and get it. Honda's commercial hits none of those notes. It gives the doughy, graying, The Producers-era Broderick a sick day from a film shoot that he fills riding a roller coaster, visiting a natural history museum (sans Dream Academy soundtrack), doing tai chi on the beach, going to the horse track and appearing in a Chinatown parade. It's laden with nods to Ferris such as hiding in one's own car and giving that car to a lead-footed valet, but dissolves into cognitive dissonance with one line: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around, you could miss it." That's great when Ferris and his friends are stuck in the day-to-day tedium of Shermer High and are just a Ferrari and a trip to the city away from seeing all the world has to offer. It's somewhat less great in a commercial for a CRV: a family crossover that's basically adulthood's giant white surrender flag. The ad's other misstep is simply this: Life doesn't move pretty fast in a CRV. It goes from 0-to-60 in about nine seconds and only needs to do so when the family vacation requires punching it to ease onto the interstate. It slows into turns so the kids and their various media devices don't get jostled around in the back. It's safe, it's practical and it's just about everything Ferris wasn't. The CRV isn't the car Ferris triumphantly speeds toward Chicago, but the car that happens when Cameron Frye wins, double bolts his door, unplugs his Cobra answering machine and leaves dad's Ferrari in the garage like a good boy. It's not the car you use to pick up Sloane Peterson for a day of hooky, but the one she slouches in the backseat of when her parents drop her off at school in the morning. It's not the car you drive when you're impersonating Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago, but when you're the middle manager who's worked for Abe for the past 15 years and still can't get that third week of vacation. This commercial isn't a fun-filled Gen-X reminder of what was, but an unkind reflection of what many folks in that generation have become: a lot less like Ferris but a lot more like his well-intentioned but clueless parents. A little chunkier, a little less impulsive and a lot more lame. No offense to the '80s kids out there, but the folks who'll enjoy this commercial are wound so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal on the driver's seat of their CRV, in two weeks you'd have a diamond. General Motors
Post-bailout GM's Super Bowl commercials seem to be right back in pre-bailout form. Even when mired in bankruptcy, GM ( GM) managed to spend nearly $83 million on Super Bowl ads within the past decade. That's second only to Anheuser-Busch and PepsiCo during that span, and this year's spending is little different. The company's splurging on five spots this year, including its own Doritos-style crowdsourced ad featuring a college graduate who apparently downed a case of Jolt cola before getting a present from his parents. That one-minute, $7 million bit of grating annoyance is joined by spots for Cadillac, the Chevy Silverado and Chevy's new subcompact Sonic. The latter labors under the oh-so-'90s presumption that a young demographic really needs a whole lot of "extreme" imagery to get them to buy a product. This is why GM's coveted target of 18- to 25-year-olds will get to see the little tech-heavy hatchback launched off a ramp, dropped from a plane, playing roadside pianos with attached sticks and -- in the most Dan Corteze/MTV Sports way imaginable -- dangled from a bungee cord. GM still has a chip on its shoulder from spending the past few years as "Government Motors" and taking lots of heat from rival Ford about its bailout money, but it really doesn't need to try this hard. Sales were up 14% last year over 2010, including a 19.4% surge for the Chevrolet brand alone. There's no need to try to be the cool teacher to get through to consumers. A revamped lineup and the product on the lots seems to be doing a fine job without the hopelessly outdated flair.