Patrick Grieve
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Hugh Jackman Foreign Toyota Ads Show Off Actor’s Impressive Range

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Members of the Academy, Take Notice

Hugh Jackman Foreign Toyota Ads

Hugh Jackman puts the Toyota Levin through its paces

Hugh Jackman has gotten a lot of praise for being a “true entertainer,” in the sense that he is versatile enough to both star in Hollywood blockbusters as a superhero with razor claws coming out of his knuckles, and host the Tony Awards and do a weird thing where he hops around backstage to showtunes. Toyota, realizing the true potential of his impressive range, has cast Jackman in two remarkably different car ads; one for the Chinese market that plays like an action movie, and one for the Japanese market that plays more like… well, a weird thing.

In the Chinese ad, boldly entitled LEVIN, Jackman stars at the titular Levin, who is introduced to us as he gets his hands dirty working underneath a plane at a U.S. Air Force base. And like all muscular, gearhead, military tough guys, he drives the all-new Toyota Corolla Levin (Hey, “Levin!” That’s the same name as his character!) Levin (the character, not the car) opens his locker and lovingly caresses a photograph of his beautiful wife Cynthia (played by Taiwainese actress Shu Qi), only to be interrupted mid-reverie when a mysterious man with a scary voice calls his iPhone to ominously ask, “Hey pal, how’s life in the sun?”

What follows is about 368 individual action movie clichés all crammed into the commercial’s remaining two minutes. Levin puts on a leather jacket, visits a random character and says “They found us, Bill,” gets another intense call from Scary Voice Guy, and then speeds home while having soft-focus flashbacks to him and his wife sitting on the beach, talking about how safe they are.

Crammed awkwardly into the proceedings is the Toyota Corolla Levin that he drives, which makes for perhaps the least likely action-movie vehicle of all time. Seriously, there aren’t many car chase scenes that begin with the hero pressing his sedan’s “START” button and then patiently waiting for the display screen to turn on.

Levin races home, only to find that his wife has already been kidnapped, despite what he said in all those flashbacks.

All in all, it’s very similar to this even more ridiculous Chinese car ad for BAIC motor that stars Nicholas Cage, which climaxes with Cage realizing that the drivers who have been chasing him are actually a young Chinese woman and her grandmother, and then they all shake hands and go inside and meet the rest of the family.

LEVIN has no such closure, instead ending with the cliffhanger of Jackman speeding off to find his kidnapped wife, which leaves the (Toyota Corolla Levin) door wide open for a sequel.

The two thirty-second Japanese Toyota ads, by contrast, play up Jackman’s lighter side by having him drive around in pastel colored Hybrid Crowns (one is “sky blue,” the other “bright green”) while singing about the “miracle of love.” Shu Qi again plays his love interest, but since this genre is less “action” and more “musical rom-com,” instead of getting kidnapped she sings and throws a paper airplane from the window, which Jackman follows around in his car, because if you own a hybrid you can afford to waste gas on such trivial errands, apparently.

So which is the best of the Hugh Jackman foreign Toyota ads? Well, although China’s LEVIN had some really enjoyable camp value, I’m going to have to give the edge to the unusual but heartwarming Japanese Crown commercials. They seem more creative and fun, and also gets props for featuring Jackman’s pleasant singing voice and not ruining it with the addition of Russell Crowe.