Monday, April 14, 2014

Hollywood stars doing commercials in Japan: Richard Gere appears as Tora-san again in Orangina ads

Richard Gere appears as Tora-san again in Orangina ads

I like Richard Gere.  My wife likes Richard Gere.  We both enjoyed his movie Hachi: A Dog's Tale, the Americanization of the Hachiko story, but we also found it kind of weird there even had to be an Americanization of the Hachiko story.  My wife couldn't get past the inclusion of an Akita.  She felt they should have changed the breed to a more familiarly American one.  But it's a story of a dog's unconditional love for a human and neither of us can resist such emotional power.  It's not the first time Gere has appeared in a film drawing on Japanese inspiration.  There's also 2004's Shall We Dance, a remake of a 1996 Japanese film.

Anyway, the reason we're talking about Richard Gere is he keeps popping up on our TV in commercials for Orangina, and here comes another one.  I'm never sure what's happening in them.  It seems to me Gere, looking dapper and vaguely European (I associate the jacket over the shoulders look with middle-aged European men, the result of a lifetime of having been exposed to American stereotypes of different cultures), flirts unsuccessfully with some woman or other, then a kid laughs in his face and they drink Orangina together.  I'm too embarrassed to ask my wife to translate and reveal my ignorance.  They're cute commercials, though.

You know all about our big Hollywood stars coming to Japan and picking up a nice payday for shilling.  That's a subplot in Lost in Translation, after all.  Every hipster has seen that.  Japan draws actors who would never do such a thing back in the US.  So you get people like Tommy Lee Jones using his amazing stone face to sell Boss coffee.  When I first saw him in the Boss ads, I assumed the company picked him to represent your typical hard-ass boss type, which Jones could do even while napping.  Apparently, from what I've gathered since then, he's actually playing an alien who visits earth to observe us and learn about our mores while drinking coffee.  This leads him to a fateful encounter with the singing-acting-cooking band SMAP, a delightful study in contrasts.

Leonardo Dicaprio made a Jim Beam commercial, and I've put away a lot of Beam in my time.  But not because of Leo.  Brad Pitt made a commercial for a cellphone company that accomplished something truly rare.  It made me laugh.  I'm a commercial skeptic, you see, and I watch the Super Bowl strictly for the football.  Budweiser commercials with American soldiers do not inspire me to patriotism or thirst for the "King of Beers," but rather a kind of weary head-shaking at the brewer's cynical ploy.  The Darth Vader kid made me want to vomit for both its forced cutesiness and its beyond tired Star Wars bandwagoning.  But for some reason watching Brad Pitt spoof himself and end up walking through a water fountain while talking on a cell phone and ogling a pretty woman cracks me up.

Recently, Elijah Wood has shown up in advertisements for a hybrid car, the Toyota Noah.  The family hybrid.  This one is notable because my brain kept short-circuiting and coming up with Tobey Maguire as I tried to remember Wood's name.  One of my most annoying tendencies besides rolling my eyes at Budweiser commercials (trust me-- I've kept my objection to them to myself in the face of repeated Facebook exposure to video links with messages like, "Doesn't this bring a tear to your eyes?  God bless our troops!") is being able to name every actor who appeared in every movie ever made, plus their co-stars, the directors and a few of the craft service people.  After watching a guy in I Am Sam do the same thing, I've learned to bite my tongue in the interest of celebrating a few wedding anniversaries with my wife rather than mourning a single one alone.  Even so, not being able to think of Elijah Wood's name just about ruined my day.

I've seen those hobbit movies a million times, I tell you!

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