We’re getting to a point, as a culture, where we can predict a few things with absolute certainty. Disney will milk every possible cent out of its animated library with live-action cash-ins. The Oscars will be divisive. And ads for Ryan Reynolds projects will have a certain wide-eyed, tongue-in-cheek self-importance that’s both ridiculous and refreshing. On Monday, the actor tweeted out a supposed behind-the-scenes clip about his preparations to voice the pokémon Pikachu in the upcoming movie Detective Pikachu. Reynolds’ solemn description of his method process — including abandoning his own children because Pikachu isn’t a parent, and trying to “lose 182 pounds to match his weight, until doctors intervened” — seems strikingly familiar.
This approach — the utterly straight-faced faux-sincerity, the absurdism, the presentation of Reynolds The Actor as a character who’s deeply engaged in his work — are all familiar from the many viral marketing stunts and ads leading up to his Deadpool movies. It’s a personal brand Reynolds is developing, and while it fit perfectly around Deadpool — a meta-character who breaks the fourth wall to talk to his audience, and is sometimes canonically aware that he’s a comic book character — it feels a little odder around Detective Pikachu. On the other hand, it’s a welcome break from live-action pokémon, and raging internet horror at live-action pokémon. (That’ll be renewed tomorrow, when the new trailer for the film drops.)
Branding himself as an absurdist shill has certainly helped Reynolds personally, as he’s applied the same tone to other ads, including spots for his own gin line, which according to this ad is made by misting oranges with his own tears, and personally apologizing to each juniper berry used in the brewing process. As personal brands go, it’s one of the more recognizable and accessible. And now that his real-life wife Blake Lively is involved — in the Detective Pikachu video, she provides a kind of “Ron Howard in Arrested Development” perspective on what Reynolds is saying — the brand is expanding. Maybe we can get the two of them into some political ads, to liven up the 2020 presidential election race, which is unfortunately already starting up.