It’s hard to know how to deal with advertising that pretends to be straight-up entertainment. On the one hand, there’s something unsettling and insidious about promotion with pretensions of art, maybe in the way it sells to the audience without being up front, skirting the realm of the subliminal in its roundabout huckstership. But then, on the other hand, why complain when an advertisement goes the extra mile and provides a little bit of fun with the necessary work of pitching? And when an ad is as inspired, bizarre, and yes, deliriously fun as David Wain and Michael Showalter’s new faux-trailer The Second Sound Barrier, it’s impossible to be distrustful of the advertising through all the laughter.
The trailer for fictitious ’70s carsploitation flick The Second Sound Barrier was conceived as a promotion for a line of fragrances from high-fashion designer Robert Graham, but the executives that tapped Wain and Showalter to create a campaign had no idea what they were getting into. The two master absurdists threw together a dizzying four-minute flurry of unforgettable one-liners, hilariously inexplicable shots freed from the choking restraints of context, and magnificent character names. (My personal favorite is a toss-up between Thelonious Courage and Charles Michael Fortitude.) Mad Men alum Vincent Kartheiser, Jeremy Sisto, and Peter Mensah of Starz’s Spartacus franchise make up the main trio, with the likes of Juliette Lewis, Wain/Showalter regular Ken Marino, and Eastbound and Down‘s Steve Little filling in the stock supporting roles.
Sending up the same vintage B-movies that inspired Quentin Tarantino’s throwback Death Proof, the four-minute clip piles on laughs at a relentless pace, sometimes through tone-perfect genre parody — including the obligatory yet completely superfluous dance sequence is a stroke of genius — and sometimes through pure ridiculousness — Juliette Lewis’ series of increasingly implausible disguises is a highlight. Having demonstrated a talent for affectionate spoofery in with their summer camp comedy Wet Hot American Summer, Wain and Showalter nail the look and feel of the era through artificial grain, dramatically canted angles, and excellent bad acting. We may never know what it means to be “howdy doody time, literally,” but damn, if only more ads were this involved, clever, and committed to their own silliness.
The campaign’s site, secondsooundbarrier.com officially launches tomorrow, March 11th.