'Doghouse' Takes Us Down a Rabbit Hole of Monotony

Saatchi's Online Video for JCPenney's Holiday Push Serves as a Warning

By Published on .

It's a fabulous idea with some fine writing and one of the best comedy directors in the world. Its point of departure is a familiar casus belli in the battle of the sexes. It even leads logically to the advertised brand.

So how did it wind up being so exhausting to watch?

Answer: The aspiring viral video from Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, for JCPenney is four minutes and 45 seconds of sloppy, profligate storytelling.

"Beware of the Doghouse" begins in a sort of basic sitcom moment: Young hubby has bought for his wife, on their anniversary, a vacuum cleaner. She isn't pleased, and he doesn't help himself at all by observing, "Dual bag."

That's kind of cute, and in five seconds a cut to the backyard will establish the rest of the premise. But first comes a bit of useless dialogue that foreshadows nothing in the story but everything in this lethargic telling. "This is the best vacuum cleaner you'll ever have, baby." That line should never have seen the light of day.

Outdoors, the angry wife leads her man to the doghouse and tells him to "get in there." (Shoulda been "In!" but never mind.) He obeys, muttering, and winds up in a kind of magical rabbit hole, like something out of "Being John Malkovich." It takes him to a subterranean gulag for clueless hubbies. There an entire minute goes by to reiterate what has happened so far, leading in turn to him being called "dual bag" by the other inmates -- a long, tiresome way to go for a "douchebag" joke that required no further setup.

Some smiles follow as an alpha con gets the other inmates to say what they're in for. "I got my wife extra RAM memory for her computer as a gift ..." "All I did was tell my wife that her mom looked hot in a bathing suit. It was a compliment. I was just trying to be nice."

The underlying jokes are fine, but the boldface denotes where the writing was flabby and the delivery dull. The last thoughtless-gift gag -- a moustache waxer -- is just DOA. Then there's "Pops," the venerable old con who long ago had told his wife that staying home with the kids isn't real work.

But wait ... Pops is, like, 35. Huh???

The next sequence is a double flashback to the alpha con's parole hearing, reviewing his Christmas-gift crime: an Abdomenizer. The actress is fabulous, with a grinning, incredulous, "Wow! I'm married to you!" It's a great line, but the scene still meanders along with the husband prattling on. At that point, the parole-board chairwoman says, "I think we've seen enough," and the few preternaturally patient viewers who have hung around are probably shouting in agreement.

Still another 1:40 to go, and we'll torture you no more. It ends up with Mr. Dual Bag learning his lesson: Next time, jewelry from Penney's. And, at long last, the tagline: "Stay out of the doghouse this holiday."

Bryan Buckley directed this? Really? Was this the raw footage?

Everything that is funny, surprising and true about "Beware of the Doghouse" is criminally diluted by everything else -- everything too slow to develop, everything repetitive, everything beside the point. Buckley's trademark timing and pacing are obliterated. To watch the thing is to sit in your chair rotating your hand in front of the screen: Comeoncomonegetonwithit.

As advertising video moves online, this is a cautionary example. It's nice not being saddled with arbitrary 30- or 60-second limits, but limits have their advantage. They force you to be economical with words and action. Take them away and watch a master miser turn into a spendthrift -- if you can stay awake.

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