The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


And Now a Word From Our Sponsor

It's astonishing and perhaps a little bit frightening how so many commercials have entered our collective consciousness over the years. The sole purpose of a commercial is to sell us something, and various psychological tactics are used to fulfill that purpose. Ads try to convince us that we will be happier, or better off, or more desirable to the opposite sex if we buy the product in question. More often than not, they disguise the message with an entertaining presentation. Aside from football, what do people get most excited about come Super Bowl time? The commercials! That's right they eagerly await having something pitched at them. The power of ads is the underlying subject of the new comedy And Now a Word From Our Sponsor.

Bruce Greenwood stars as Adan Kundle, the owner and CEO of a major advertising agency. As the film begins, he has suffered some kind of mental breakdown and now speaks only in ad slogans. The hospital has made arrangements for him to be transferred to a mental hospital, but he needs somewhere to stay until a bed opens up. Karen Hillridge (Parker Posey) is the head of the hospital's charity foundation, and also a former student of Adan's. She agrees to take him into her home for a few days. This doesn't sit well with her rebellious teen daughter, Meghan (Allie MacDonald). Meanwhile, Lucas Foster (Callum Blue), the president of Adan's agency, makes a power play to gain control of the business.

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor owes a debt of gratitude to the Peter Sellers classic Being There. (Writer Michael Hamilton-Wright openly acknowledges the inspiration.) Adan Kundle speaks only in slogans, yet they are carefully chosen to serve a purpose. The words and ideas he co-opts end up having a profound impact on those around him. For whatever mental health problems he may have, the character is hyper-aware of what's going on. The screenplay for this movie is something of a marvel, as it very cleverly incorporates dozens of familiar ad lines, each one making complete sense within the context of the moment. Adan's speech style is not just a joke, though. And Now a Word From Our Sponsor suggests that commercial slogans work because, while boiled down to simple phrases, they contain universal truths. We are better off and more successful when we embrace certain ideals, such as simplicity, happiness, and connection to others.

Bruce Greenwood was an inspired choice for the lead role. In a big Hollywood version of this movie, Adan Kundle would have been played by Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell, i.e. someone who would have milked the gag for all its worth. Greenwood doesn't play it as comedy, though; instead, he wisely plays everything straight and with great sincerity. The film's premise could have come across as too gimmicky, but he brings it down to earth a little bit. Parker Posey is also good, balancing out the eccentricity of the Adan/Karen relationship. She reacts brilliantly to what Greenwood is doing, convincing us that Karen is benefiting from some simple, straightforward advice.

A couple of things in the movie don't quite work. Lucas Foster is a fairly stock villain, given only one dimension ruthless slimeball. The character needed to be more complex to make his threat credible. There is additionally a gaping plot hole involving a politician who gets a new campaign slogan from Adan. Sometimes I can overlook such things, but this one really stood out and became distracting.

The problematic parts make up about one-third of And Now a Word From Our Sponsor. The good stuff makes up the rest. While not without some flaws, I enjoyed Bruce Greenwood's performance, as well as the movie's attempt to say something provocative about the function of advertising in our society. To borrow a conceit from its protagonist, And Now a Word From Our Sponsor may not be good to the last drop, but parts of it are finger lickin' good.

( 1/2 out of four)

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor is unrated, but contains some mild language and sexual humor. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.

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