The Conversation: What's the Worst Commercial Exploitation of a Beloved Movie or Character?

The Conversation: What's the Worst Commercial Exploitation of a Beloved Movie or Character?

Jan 28, 2012

If there's one '80s teen movie character I wouldn't expect to ever see as an ad spokesperson, it's Say Anything's Lloyd Dobler. But a close second is Ferris Bueller. Unfortunately, a teaser video of Matthew Broderick seemingly reprising the role, which surfaced online yesterday to much excitement and curiosity, is indeed a promo for a Super Bowl ad, allegedly for Honda (the company hasn't confirmed this). And there's now a balanced response from people happy to see the character return in any form after 26 years and those who are mad as hell. Oh, and then there are the huge numbers who have been deceived into thinking Ferris Bueller 2 is actually coming out soon. Poor fools who spread Twitter-based gossip.  

To an extent, I guess it wouldn't be too surprising if Bueller grew up to be a car salesman of some kind, or having "sold out" some other way. How many idealistic youths grow up to be yuppies and such? The '80s themselves showed us what happens to a generation of kids who initially thought it cool to be all counterculture. I don't know what kind of adulthood and job would satisfy Ferris Bueller's Day Off fans anyway. Con man? The very thing he once hated... a public high school employee (see Election).

But what might be disappointing is if the actual character and not just an allusion to him is used for the ad. If only because it does end up contributing to the original film's narrative, like fan fiction but authorized. We're used to seeing literary and film sequels to films that shouldn't be made, and this isn't too far off. It also has a stench similar to those ads and music videos that employee characters like Doc Brown and (as our Erik Davis noted) The Griswolds and sometimes deceased actors like John Wayne and Fred Astaire.

The worst offender still is I think the Poltergeist-based DirecTV spot that controversially repurposes child actress Heather O'Rourke. On the other side of the spectrum, this new Kinect ad featuring Chris Pratt dueling Darth Vader is pretty awesome:


What are people saying about the Ferris Bueller Super Bowl Ad? Here's The Conversation heard around the Internet: 

Honda -- or whatever company is behind this -- could be playing with fire. The top two comments on YouTube at the moment are from people outraged that a sequel is not in the offing. - Stephen Williams, AdAge MediaWorks

Indeed, there is something more than a little destabilizing about a doughy, gray-haired Bueller ripping open his curtains, uttering a midlife-crisis variation on his indelible dictum from the 1986 John Hughes classic [...] as far as I can tell, licensing the Bueller likeness is a two-party process involving Honda and Paramount, so you probably don't have any legal drama or the like to anticipate. Coaxing Broderick, meanwhile, probably wasn't too hard but couldn't have been cheap at all. It's strange, too -- I always thought of Sarah Jessica Parker as the paycheck-part pants wearer in the family. - S.T. VanAirsdale, Movieline

Is he really going to be working as a corporate shill? That's not possible, right? Man, if there's one person we never really expected to grow up, it's Ferris Bueller. - Scott Harris, Next Movie

We pretty much expected that the Bueller spot would be some kind of commercial, so it's hard to be too disappointed to hear that Ferris has sold out in his old age. But is a Honda spot really what we were hoping for? Or should we wait to see the ad before judging whether this was a good idea. - Katey Rich, Cinema Blend

Here’s the thing: This is something Ferris himself would never actually do. A fortysomething Ferris shilling for a random company during a football game? High school Ferris would be mortified. - Adam B. Vary, PopWatch (Entertainment Weekly)

It's not so shocking that an advertiser would bank on Broderick/Bueller's enduring legacy as a righteous dude, but one does wonder what exactly Bueller would be up to or endorsing these days, given that he'd now be about 44; the devil-may-care attitude is fine for an 18-year-old sausage king of Chicago, but scheming elusiveness is somewhat less appealing in an adult. Life has indeed moved pretty fast! - Margaret Lyons, Vulture

Breaking the fourth-wall of good taste, fun-loving anti-authority figure Ferris Bueller seems to have at last decided on using those famously charismatic powers of persuasion to sell some shit. [...] Matthew Broderick, it's over. Go home. GO. - Mark, I Watch Stuff

What we take away from the spot is that it took a total of 10 seconds to absolutely convince us that if any '80s classic deserves a sequel, it's "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." There's no replacing John Hughes, but Ferris' character and the themes from the original kind of force you to wonder, "Whatever happened to that kid?" - Kevin P. Sullivan, MTV Movies Blog

I don’t even care what it’s for: it’s just nice to see Ferris again. [...] one thing is for sure: Ferris sold out first chance he got, and is totally into isms these days, with consumerism right at the top of the list. - Maryann Johanson, Flick Filosopher

It’s been over 25 years since poor Ferris Bueller had his last day off. The guy deserves it, no? What you’re watching is 10 pure seconds of unadulterated bliss. [...] I think trying to do a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off remake would be a terrible idea but an extended commericial during the Super Bowl may be just what the doctor ordered for fans of the classic 80s flick. - Jill Pantozzi, The Mary Sue

Matthew Broderick still looks great, and while he’s giving off more Jim McAllister than Ferris Bueller in this clip, it doesn’t matter. THE MUSIC. THE ROBE. ONE CAN ONLY HOPE A MOHAWKED SHOWER SCENE. Good job. - Michelle Collins, Best Week Ever

Fine by me. Ferris Bueller is an asshole. Besides, they already made a Ferris Bueller sequel and it was called Election, where Ferris ends up a sad high school principal himself, who is tormented by his super-popular student Reese Witherspoon, the fact that his glory days are long over, and that he's getting exactly what he deserves. - Rob Bricken, Topless Robot

@Barrybgb: Awesome! Matthew Broderick reprising Ferris Bueller for a Super Bowl commercial. Can't wait to see that!

@Chris_Iannuzzi: Oh how I truly wish they were making a Ferris Beuler 2! If this is only a tease for a SB commercial, I will be so sad...

@scottEweinberg: Dear Matthew Broderick, don't do it. You're already wealthy. Just say no. Thanks. #saveferris

@WAxelFoley: Honestly, who cares. He was paid for the movie, now he's paid for a commercial. He's an actor. That's what they do #saveferris

@omarg: Can't help but feel that somebody was waiting for John Hughes to die so they could do this

@vrizov: I'm shocked that a corporation would cynically exploit its property for cash.


Conversation Twitter Poll: What's the worst commercial exploitation of a movie or character?

@mousterpiece: Ellen Ripley in the DirecTV ads.

@JonSullivan_: that stupid series of hotel commercials with the Griwolds.

@scottEweinberg: Dead actors selling products makes me puke blood.

@NewVideoDigital: Agree!

@KRMarlo: Oh come now, Astaire WANTED to dance with a vacuum! 

@jeeemerson: Fred Astaire dancing with a Dirt Devil. Neil Diamond singing "Heartlight."

@brandoncamp: Vincent Gallo as Billy Brown in the Denny's commercial?

@vjmfilms: Worst ever commercial use of a pre-existing work (though artist herself was dead) was Mercedes using the Janis Joplin song, not because the song is "sacred" or even particularly great, but because its actual meaning WAS THE EXACT OPPOSITE!!!

@FramedPanda: This comes to mind:


Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.

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