6 of 6
This review of “House rules” by Dejesus_77 is the 6th of six issued by the VCK for the six finalists in the 2009-2010 Crash The Superbowl Doritos commercial contest. You may page backwards or forwards through any of the six sequential
blog posts to read any/all of the reviews.
The Video ______________________ The Rating
1. “Kids These Days”…………………………………………8.2
3. “The Smackout”……………………………………………..7.5
5. “Snack Attack Samurai” ……………………………….7.0
6. “House Rules” ………………………………………………4.9
House Rules by Dejesus_77
CASTING/ACTING: The casting was excellent. Very relevant to this script. The age range and appearance of each role works. The subsequent acting was also very good. The little boy could have been stellar were it not for the on screen coaching. I also have issues with the director and the physical acting requirements put on the three year old, (:23). Oops…it’s PRO time, I’ll talk more about that in the CON.
SOUND DESIGN/LIGHTING/EDITING: SD: As with the other spots, the absence of a music bed and/or overbearing ambience really helps the dialogue punch through. Everything delivered by the actors can be heard in it’s entirety and with a nice crispness. Relative to the shoot day sound crew and post design, everything works. Similar to the Olympics where scores are predicated on degree of difficulty, there is only so much praise that can be lavished here. Lighting: No problems here. Everything is nice and even. Nice marriage of exterior and interior lighting. Editing: Decent. Moves the story forward. No ‘throw-away’ clips. A little choppy in places, something I’ll elaborate on in the CON.
WARDROBE/PROPS: Wardrobe: Well done. Nothing out of place. Definitely one of the easier productions to wardrobe, as these actors could very well have gotten dressed for a normal day and showed up ready to shoot. Very smart to keep things uncomplicated in a script/production. Props: Straight forward. The kind of story that lends itself to a simple prop, (things found in every/any household). Easy to execute from a production perspective.
DIRECTING/DP: No directing oscar for this work, but no egregious errors either. Low level of difficulty in the blocking, but executed well. It feels like all of the actors got to where they needed to be emotionally (though ethically/morally questionable – which I will address in the CON). Generally speaking, good directing. It seems like the director had command of the elements on the set. DP: It was far from perfect and I will cover those issues in the CON.
STORY/LOCATION: The story is plausible and I am sure it will be found entertaining in certain cross sections of the population, but not sure if it is universally appealing enough for everyone (all the USA Today pollsters) to get on board with it. Got a lot to write about thereto in the CON. But it looks like the production was probably a faithful execution of the script. The location seemed appropriate enough to the story-line.
ACTING/DIRECTING: One of the obvious production obstacles was the difficulty of working with the young boy. If you watch the ‘Date Dude’ at :23, he is mouthing the words to the little boy at the same time the boy is delivering them. Clearly this young boy required coaching, without which, the spot would have been impossible to shoot. In another instance, the child was anticipating the action of the sight gag and started to prematurely raise his hand (:19-:20 the little boys right arm is already coming up to slap the ‘Dater Dude’). Why the director didn’t block this in a way to conceal the coaching, and why the editor didn’t/couldn’t remove those pre-mature frames is beyond me. The editor could have used an eight-point garbage matte of the ‘Dater Dude’ head and inserted 15 earlier frames of his action so we don’t see his mouth moving. This is a relatively simple editing technique that would have hid the error. Lot’s of other little errors that together, add up to a large post production shortcoming.
Overall this just feels like a very rushed (0r rookie) editing job.
Most Egregious: It bothered me, that this three year old is coached into striking (with decent force) the face of another individual. You would be hard pressed to convince me that this little child understands fully what is being asked of him and the dynamics at play. It is more than a little disturbing to watch. The standard protocol would be to block this in a way that it ‘looked’ like a slap, but not one that the poor little guy had to deliver in physical reality….I cringe when I think it probably required more than a single take. For me, bottom line: this child doesn’t seem mature enough (3 yrs. old) to handle this type of job/pressure.
Reference: A few years ago I was working on the set of a music video titled “Highschool Never Ends” for the band ‘Bowling for Soup-Sony/BMG’. The video included a cameo where a Tom Cruise look-a-like gets slapped during a High School Reunion party by a couple of revenge seeking classmates. During the shoot, a female actress was required to slap the Tom Cruise look-a-like in the face (slap him like she meant it). Every time she went into the wind-up, it looked good until she got to within inches of his face, at which time she would slow down profoundly and the slap contact was very, very mild. The Director worked with her for about ten minutes, trying to get her to the place where she needed to slap with aggression/anger. She never did. She left the set in tears and the director frustrated, left to figure out a remedy. I took it upon my self to try and console her, during which time she shared how embarrassed she was and how she felt she let everyone down. She just couldn’t bring herself to strike another person with that type of aggression no matter what it meant to her career. Frankly, a better director could have staged it to look like a slap without actual physical contact. Somehow, the director of House Rules was able to get this 3 year old in the right mental state to swing away. Not ethical in my opinion. It’s no wonder the Macaulay Culkin syndrome is so prevalent in our art form. Legal: I have serious doubts if it even fits the criteria for acceptable work practices of an actor his age. I know that the Doritos ad agency of record is a SAG signatory agency. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners should probably clear this spot with SAG before they get themselves into hot water.
DP/EDITING: DP: The opening waist level shot did nothing for me. The establishing shot should have been the tight, over the left shoulder of the actor shot that included all of the action (knock, door opens, invitation to enter). That first shot feels like a stall/hesitation before the actual story starts. So I guess I have to retract my previous PRO critique about there being no ‘throw-away’ clips because that first one was for sure.
The color is shifting cyan intermittently from clip to clip. It doesn’t appear a lot of time was spent on coloration.
When the Mommy says “Come on in…”, she starts the line in clip two and finishes it in clip three. Amazingly the action is beamed up into the living room. If you are going to edit a line over two clips the shooting has to be more contiguous. We have a disappearing door here. Clip #2 should have had more screen time as the the Dater Dude walks past the thresh-hold. Her “Come on in…” line could have been executed fully during this clip. In this way it would have justified the introduction of clip #3 at any juncture. It also would have required less screen time of clip #3, something I would have preferred (explanation in next paragraph).
I don’t know why we have this whole new generation of photographers, so enamored with depth of field, they are willing to ignore other critical elements of story-telling that the lens has to offer. Clip number three is a textbook example of how ‘not’ to use depth of field in an attempt to look ‘cinematic’. I am assuming that this was a real room, but the way in which the shot was executed, the background looks like a cheap green screen insert. Almost like a ‘re-shoot’ after an ignored daily dictated another shoot day but with an inability to secure the original shooting location. What is so painful about the shot, is that the single clip is on screen for seven seconds (ala first semester of film school – “Look at my depth of field…ain’t it cool?”). Way too long for such an unappealing shot and the action depicted within. One of the reasons why it is so glaring is that the required cut-away shot to the little boy never happened. It is inexcusable in this setting to not cut away to the person being referred/spoken to. Especially when you have a weak seven second long second clip that was begging to be segmented. During that clip, and when the actress is referring to this person to her right, I was befuddled as a viewer. Almost like a mass transit rider waiting for a train that never shoes up. I def. wanted to get on and take a ride but the bus never came. Damn those inter-city transfers. I also don’t know why director didn’t have the Dater Dude turn his head to acknowledge this O.S. character the Mom was referring to.
After we come back from the ‘booty walk’, we have an additional 2 seconds of the same painful camera angle (total of nine seconds at this point). This shot ‘so’ needed to be hand held. In his action, the Dater Dude dips way below the allowable threshold for rule of thirds. It is glaring and if it were my project, it would have met the criteria for a re-shoot.
The introduction (tight shot) of the bowl of Doritos was a disjointed addition to the timeline. It wreaks of a shot that was taken at a different time and place and inserted as an after thought. The shot should have included part of the Dater Dude, sitting down in the background (maybe a knee or hand), and yes….Dater Dude could have been out of focus.
In the medium shot of Dater Dude and Little boy, [INT: Couch], the shot is very top heavy. The little boy is falling dangerously close to the bottom and out of frame. There is all kind of room on the top for the camera to pan down, to include more of the torso of the little boy. Unless there was a coaching/blocking reason, this cropping doesn’t make sense. And even if there is a blocking reason, the shot then could have been executed tighter to eliminate the dead space above Dater Dude. Hey, going tighter would have rendered the background curtain even more out of focus.
Editing: There are some items that bothered me, that in and of themselves aren’t deal breakers, but that definitely preclude the chance for any type of peer/industry recognition, (Mobius, Addy, Clio, etc.). For instance, after the little boy slaps the Dater Dude, the next clip isn’t ‘action congruent’. Since this is a realtime live action sight gag, there are requirements for the clips to work seamlessly. Admittedly, most of the SB viewers, well on their way to a Foster’s Lager buzz, will not care but those of us who know what ‘should be’, definitely recognize the post-production deficit. Of course in this spot, there are too many other issues that sink any Clio aspirations to worry about mere editing glitches. Frankly, where production values are concerned, this spot never got off dry dock.
WRITING/STORY: I don’t think the story dynamic, that compels a three year old little boy to feel the need to defend his mother against this intrusive older male, will appeal to the masses. I get the feeling this spot will divide. There will be people who love it and those who will hate it. In fact, advertising related blogospheres have already born this out. If Doritos is switching gears from trying to win the Ad Meter, to ‘controversial’, then they nailed it. If that’s the case though, they should change the creative brief to insure they receive more of this type of branding, and not mislead the creatives who spend substantial resources producing more traditional Doritos content.
For the viewer who is comfortable with a pre-kindergarten age child employing conflict resolution through violence, mild ebonics, booty calls and unwed motherhood, this will be an entertaining :30. Those viewers who are insulted by this stereotypical portrayal, won’t be impressed. The problem here, is the divisiveness will translate into failure where the ad meter is concerned. Some meters will go to ten while others will hover around five or worse yet, plummet to zero. USA Today will employ too many pollsters of too wide a demographic range for there to be a unanimous consensus one way or another.
If I were in the shoes of any number of creatives passed over by Doritos who executed content/production to a level exceeding this spot, I would be very disappointed. I am not going to try to figure out the reasoning behind this selection as a finalist except to say it is quite suspect considering how stratified it is in quality from the other finalists and that it arrives in a year where there is an unprecedented 6th slot. Regrettably, it leaves the door open for all manner of conspiracy theory.
I can only say with certainty that within my little circle of peers throughout the internet world, there is a very divided opinion on ‘House Rules’.
Not a good recipe for USA Today success.
VCK Rating – 4.9