God of War is rolling out its marketing campaign for its impending release, and in this one, Ben Stiller has started a father-child support group. I can see what they’re going for here: At their core, modern God of Wars are about a dysfunctional father-son relationship. And…LeBron James and John Travolta are bald with beards? But Ben Stiller isn’t? So he’s in charge? And they’re all Kratos fans? Yeah, no, I can’t see what they were going for here. I was lying.
Well, look, you have your own brain and opinions, just watch it for yourself. And yes, those are their real kids:
While there are a couple of nice lines in there—“LeBreakthrough” (the first time it’s used), and that final, “It is a costume,” work for me—the overall commercial feels like a missed attempt to recapture Stiller’s glorious ‘90s debut, The Ben Stiller Show.
Woefully forgotten—and yes, I did pitch for this story just so I could wank on about this—The Ben Stiller Show was an absolutely pivotal comedy series. Airing from 1990 to ‘91 on MTV, then revived by Fox from ‘92 to ‘93, the series not only brought Ben Stiller, Andy Dick and Janeane Garofalo to fame, but more importantly, brought writers David Cross and Bob Odenkirk together. Those latter two would go on to create Mr Show With Bob & David, the best sketch comedy since The Kids In The Hall, and yet to be improved upon (although Aunty Donna come close).
The Ben Stiller Show was fascinating for many reasons, not least because it didn’t have a studio audience nor any form of laugh track, which was unheard of in the early 1990s. Decades ahead of its time, it pioneered that single-camera, awkward vibe that would go on to become so famous in The Office, 30 Rock, and so on, and then even more latterly picked up by sketch comedy like Aunty Donna’s House Of Fun, and the recent revival series of Kids In The Hall.
So it’s through this lens that I give far too much of my attention to this weird and slightly crappy advert that everyone else in the YouTube comments seems to like. I can see those classic Stiller vibes in there, his head tilts, characters slipping in and out of character, and Stiller’s faux-or-is-it vanity. And it just makes me sad, that this so short-lived period of wonderful sketch comedy remains stuck there, 30 years in the past, and hasn’t been magically revived by the world’s best ever basketball player and that creepy Scientologist guy. I might have expectation problems and strong opinions about artists doing commercials.
Seriously, though, watch this. It’s extraordinary. Platoon on rollerblades to a puppet performance of police corruption. Then download all of Mr Show because you don’t own a DVD player any more.
God of War: Ragnarök is out November 9, and we’ll have our review soon.