Super Bowl ad: Is Ferris Bueller 'sequel' the right vehicle for a Honda CR-V?

Before the ad wars kick off on Super Bowl Sunday, Honda is trying to score early with an extended online pitch for the CR-V, featuring Matthew Broderick in a Ferris Bueller sequel. Of sorts.

American Honda Motor Co., Inc./PRNewsFoto
Award-winning actor Matthew Broderick is playing himself in a grown-up version of his celebrated role of Ferris Bueller to promote the all-new 2012 Honda CR-V in a new Super Bowl ad to air at the start of the fourth quarter.

As we all know, it’s not just two football teams that are trying to win the Super Bowl.

Corporations are spending big money on ads, and Honda is trying to score a preemptive touchdown by releasing an extended online version of an ad for this coming Sunday, featuring actor Matthew Broderick in a kind of sequel of the 1986 film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Mr. Broderick plays an actor who calls in “sick” and then heads off for fun, doing things like visiting a museum. He happens to look and sound a lot like an older Ferris Bueller. Instead of “Twist and Shout,” we hear him sing a few lines in Chinese.

The ad is entertaining. It conjures up what for many are fond cinematic memories.

But will it be good for Honda?

Maybe so, for the reasons just mentioned. But the company is banking on a somewhat risky proposition: that car buyers will equate a modest Honda “crossover” vehicle (the CR-V) with rocking good times.

If you recall that baritoned “Oh Yeah” sound in the movie, you’ll hear it again in the commercial. But in the movie that song went with the title character getting to drive a Ferrari.

Honda is not Ferrari. Even the company's loyal customers don’t think it is.

The CR-V is a popular crossover, blending car and sport-utility features. It’s been a reliable seller in the US, but Honda faces competition in that segment from Toyota, Hyundai, and General Motors among others. This ad, apparently, is Honda's effort to emphasize that the CR-V can feel fun as well as practical.

Honda isn't the only company to try to hitch its wagon (or car) to Hollywood. Ford used some computer software to help resurrect Steve McQueen in the service of its Mustang. And a year ago, Volkswagen got lots of positive attention for its Super Bowl spot with a child dressed as Darth Vader.

The Darth Vader ad’s fun for viewers came partly in viewing the world through a child’s eyes. The boy behind the black helmet tries in vain to use his menacing fingers to influence a dog, a washing machine, and other objects before miraculously managing to start a Passat.

Some viewers of Honda’s online ad say it is different. It’s more of a movie sequel, but with a message that’s merely a faint echo of the original.

“Matthew Broderick isn’t attempting to subvert the system in the commercial. That’s impossible. It is a commercial. He’s just hoping to blow off his work – an entertainer's work at that – because it’s a nice day,” writes Matt Hardigree, of the auto website Jalopnik.

He quotes Broderick himself, in a past interview with Vanity Fair, saying that “ ‘Ferris Bueller’ is about the week before you leave school, it’s about the end of school – in some way, it doesn’t have a sequel. It’s a little moment and it's a lightning flash in your life.”

The ad, whether in its long online form or in a 30-second slot on Bowl day, promises to bring smiles to many faces. But some may wish for a “Ferris” sequel that's less of a 26-years-later replay of favorite lines and gags.

And it remains to be seen what it generates more of: CR-V sales or Netflix orders for a certain movie from 1986.

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