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— Casper Van Dien, Starship Troopers

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Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Lara punches a shark, rides a motorcycle on the Great Wall of China, and dives off a skyscraper —Matt Anderson (review...)

Jolie fits nicely into Lara Croft's boots

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The movie at tonight’s International Film Series has everything — lots of laughs, a few tears, and messages that will really make you think.

Last year’s hit from Cannes? A low-budget indie that’s going to buzz Hollywood?

No, it’s The World’s Best Commercials, back for its annual fall run.

Why should you pay money to watch a hundred commercials from last year? For one thing, commercials have to fight both the mute button and trips to the fridge if they want to be noticed. To keep your interest they require more thought, more budget per second, and more creativity than a lot of TV programs. When you skim the best ones from all the commercials from around the world, you get some pretty tasty stuff.

You may recognize some of the commercials from the United States. For example, the Miller Lite “Twist to Open” commercial is there. So is Jerry Seinfeld’s trip to England, where he tries to learn the lingo of the Brits. There’s the commercial for Special K that features ordinary-looking men talking about their bodies the way women do (“Does this suit make my butt look big?”)

There are also some good ones from overseas. On the surface, they look like American commercials, but underneath, they reveal cultural differences. For example, a Dutch commercial shows a nice family of four getting into their car, turning on the radio, and grooving to a song so explicit that it couldn’t possibly air on any American television or radio station. Public service announcements from Brazil show that they’re concerned about traffic accidents, homelessness, and prejudice. They appeal to personal emotions and national pride. Ones from Australia encourage drivers to slow down, and they appeal to the more rational side.

(Ironically, there is also a commercial for Peugeot that features a car braking just in time to avoid a cyclist, thanks to its anti-lock brake system. In one of the Australian ads, a pedestrian was hit by a speeding car, graphically demonstrating that even anti-lock brakes are no substitute for slowing down.)

But whether they use comedy or tragedy to make you remember them, these commercials are all excellent mini-films. Granted, most commercials deserve to be ignored. But the best ones can be very good.

Bundled together, they make for an entertaining movie that has it all.

  • Michael Friedman: I'm trying to find a commercial from one of these "world's best commercials" shows. Has anyone reviewed one with this in it?

    A few years ago - 4 to 6 I think, there was a tv show that showed foreign tv commercials, in the style of Funniest Home Videos. Within this show, one of the commercials they showed went like this:

    A girl and a man are walking home from a shopping area during a holiday season, walking down the street. The man was carrying bags with gift-wrapped packages and the girl was holiding a teddy bear I think. The man is on a cell phone to his wife complaining about how terible the little girl was, how she complained the whole time, was just a pain in the butt. Meanwhile, the little girl has spotted this homeless guy sitting on a corner, and he smiles at her and she smiles at him. She hands the homeless guy her teddy bear, and he gives her this look of pure love and thanks, and the father, complaining on the phone sees it. He gets totally choked up at this act of giving and then hangs up or says he'll call back...

    My wife and I love that commercial and are looking to see it again.
    Thanks,
    Michael July 12, 2007 reply