Christopher Guest's Census Commercials

I love Christopher Guest, both as an actor as a director, so I was intrigued when I heard he'd be shooting a series of viral commercials to help promote the U.S. Census (Huh?). One of the ads aired last night during the Super Bowl, costing taxpayers $2.5 million (a fact which has caused some consternation). Hit the jump to see all the commercials.

The commercials follow the travails of director/auteur Payton Schlewitt, who is attempting to film a "Snapshot of America" featuring 300 million people. Shot in Guest's typical style, with some talking heads interviews interspliced with behind-the-scenes footage, the ads feature a healthy dose of quirk, surrealism, and pathos.

CNN has a piece about the ads, in which certain pundits posit that they won't be able to connect with everyday viewers. According to David Griner from Adfreak:

It's a strange time to do a viral campaign, especially one that's obviously got quite a bit of star power behind it, when the upper middle-class, white audience is going to be the usual core group that mostly finds the Christopher Guest mockumentary style really hilarious and really compelling...You have to wonder if that's a group that didn't understand the role of the census and would not have been active to take part in it.

However, Gary Resch, who helped develop the ads, responded to this argument, saying, "I think it's a little bit presumptuous to think that only educated or sophisticated people get this type of comedy....This concept was developed before Christopher Guest came on board." So, what say you readers? Will these ads reach Middle America? Will they cross racial and ethnic lines? And will they make people want to fill out their Census forms? You decide!

For my part, I can say that these spots sneak up on you, as do most of Guest's films. What starts as an off-kilter talking-head interview can quickly generate some pretty big laughs. I'm a fan and I find them as good a combination of "Christopher Guest" and "U.S. Census Commercial" as we are likely to get.

Let us know what you think in the comments.