Reviewing Leonardo DiCaprio's Japanese commercials

By A.J. Jacobs
Updated June 05, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Someday, there’s going to be an issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY without a single mention of Leonardo DiCaprio. But this is not it. Leo, you see, keeps putting out hush-hush Japanese commercials that will never air in the U.S., and we feel compelled to review them. Last month, there was one for Orico credit cards; now senior writer A.J. Jacobs considers the actor’s latest — a two-part campaign for Suzuki wagons.

Talk about range! In the space of two 30-second ads, our young thespian runs the gamut from naughty rascal to paternal, Up With People mensch. And not only that, he speaks Japanese! (We’d always heard rumors he was bilingual.) First, the rascally Leo. In this spot, he barrels his miniwagon past two babes whose skirts billow up a la Marilyn Monroe. Our hero screeches to a halt, backs up, tells each the color of her panties (”white…strawberry prints”), then winks. Aside from a couple of plot-logic problems (why is he trying to pick up chicks in a Soccer Mom-mobile?), the spot is a winner, a saucy, fast-moving romp. And good preparation for another scalawag in Leo’s future: his $21 million role in American Psycho. Undie peeping today, skull sex tomorrow. A-

The second spot takes place at a Little League baseball game, bringing to mind Leo’s sports-themed film The Basketball Diaries, though with less heroin. Leo pulls up in his Suzuki wagon, pops out, and gives a pep talk to the losing peewee pitcher: ”Don’t give up!” It’s a noble effort — at his best, Leo echoes Pat O’Brien in Knute Rockne, All American — but in the end, it’s too schmaltzy. And come to think of it, what’s the character’s motivation? Why’s he hanging around these boys? Shouldn’t he be playing with kids his own age? C

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