There is nobody in the entertainment business quite like James Franco, the over-achieving actor-writer-producer-director-student-etc. who often appears to be simultaneously juggling more creative projects than any ten celebrities combined. That would seem to make him the perfect choice to star in a commercial showcasing a device that enables its user to do several things at once – in this case the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.
Sure enough, in Cheil USA’s new video for this tablet, which Franco actually directed, he is super-capable at effortlessly mastering any task at hand, even if it comes at him from out of nowhere. He’s smart, appealing and quick on his feet throughout. (He takes direction from himself very well.) But there’s a slight disconnect between the Franco on screen – who can do just about anything, and do it well, especially when he has his trusty tablet in hand -- and the Franco we all know, who seems to not succeed just as often as he does succeed, perhaps because he does too many things at once. Yes, he was terrific in such feature films as “Pineapple Express,” “Milk” and “127 Hours.” But many of his independent film projects have tanked, his recurring role on ABC’s “General Hospital” helped bring that show to its knees and his gig last year as an Oscar co-host is already a legendary disaster. In other words, nobody can do everything right – not even the awesome James Franco.
Throughout the video it appears that he can do everything to perfection, from preparing breakfast to making a medical diagnosis to solving a mathematical equation to directing a commercial. But his actions in the kitchen suggest otherwise. As the video begins he cracks an egg into a pan and puts a piece of bread in a toaster, then moves on to other things. At the end, he returns to the kitchen just in time to slide his perfectly-done egg onto a plate and catch the toast as it pops out of the toaster. Yet he fails to do the most important thing, as revealed in a comment on the video’s YouTube page, which reads: “You forgot to turn off the gas stove, multi-tasker.”
That’s a small complaint, to be sure. But it actually says a lot about why this very good video isn’t a really great one. Something is missing that might make it as seemingly sensational as the product it’s promoting. Maybe it needs a flash of self-deprecating humor from Franco that pokes fun at his reputation as the ultimate multi-tasker, or a dash of the essential snark that seems to so effectively sell products to teens and young adults. To put this in another way, it’s lacking an image or an act that might stick in the viewer’s mind and stay there.
Is James Franco the Manic Multi-Tasker, appealing enough to sell this or any other product? I can’t really say, but it may not matter, because even Franco at his most charming cannot outshine the razzle-dazzle of a state-of-the-art tablet. Fortunately for Samsung, even when this popular Oscar nominee is at the center of the action in this video, as he is throughout, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is always the star.
The message of this busy video can be taken two ways, both of them very well expressed. Take one: The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is a dream device that can keep up with a fervid multi-tasker’s most urgent multi-tasking. Take two: It is a life-changing device that can enable anyone to become the multi-tasker he or she always wanted to be. At almost three minutes in length, it is an impressive showcase for many of the amazing things this tablet can do, or that one can do with a tablet, even if some of them feel overdone. For example, at one point during the video a young woman complains to Franco that she doesn’t feel well. Franco tells her to stick out her tongue, uses the tablet to take a picture of the inside of her mouth and throat, compares the picture to others on medical Web sites, then e-mails the picture to her doctor and tells her to rest and get plenty of fluids. I’m not sure this particular ability should be a selling point for this or any other tablet. Also, it’s kind of gross.
Among the indefatigable Franco’s many pursuits is the maximum utilization of social media. That surely explains why this video generated just under 2.5 million views on YouTube during its first week. It won’t surprise me if that number doubles by next week. But I will be surprised if Franco doesn’t pursue additional video work, since the guy never seems to have enough to do.