Super Bowl commercials 2017: Grading the best and worst of the big game

Super Bowl Sunday! It’s a national holiday when we have to sit through football in order to watch those beloved ads. For the fifth year, Yahoo Sports’ Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) and Kevin Kaduk (@kevinkaduk) are here to walk you through the cheesy, the corny, the weepy, and the funny of this year’s ads, updated live as they air. As always, we rate ads on a completely unscientific and utterly biased basis. Let’s make with the grading!

GRADE: A

GODADDY: The Internet

No Danica Patrick this time around, but there’s enough tucked into this quick spot about “The Internet” to keep you pausing your DVR right on through the rest of the quarter. A strong spot, one that will reward some repeated viewing … and perhaps a Wikipedia page of its own.

TURBO TAX: Humpty Dumpty

This is the leader in the clubhouse for best ad. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men are pretty dang useless, as it turns out.

HONDA: Yearbook

This was fun! Great concept, clever execution, even if there was a bit of creepy Hall-of-Presidents feel to the moving celebrity faces. This ad stayed in its lane, didn’t overreach, and ought to be one of the more favorably reviewed ones of the night.

LOGAN: Amazing Grace

The new trailer for the new movie. Everything Wolverine is awesome. We will not debate this.

NFL: Super Bowl Babies

Come on, who can hate Baby Beast Mode?

T-MOBILE: Snoop & Martha Stewart

Pot? Can of bisque? Brilliant.

KIA: Melissa McCarthy

Fresh off her triumphant performance on Saturday Night Live, Melissa McCarthy tears it up in this KIA ad, getting knocked into a ship, off a tree, and into an ice crevasse. Wanton violence always sells well.

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GRADE: B

BUICK: Cam Newton vs. Little Kids

This is the basic template for a Super Bowl commercial: celebrity + cute kids + easy premise: what if Cam Newton played football against a bunch of tots? It’s a straight rip on the old Saturday Night Live Peyton Manning commercial, where Peyton hounded and harangued a bunch of six-year-olds, but without the menace. (Facebook America would just LOVE an angry Cam Newton barking at little munchkins.) Anyway, nice concept, decent execution, awkward stingers to close it, overall not an embarrassment … yeah, this is the Buick of Super Bowl commercials.

HULU: The Handmaid’s Tale

Well, that’s one grim-as-hell teaser for a new Hulu series. “Better never means better for everyone.” Interesting subtext to several of the ads this game, isn’t there?

COCA-COLA: Coke and Meals Love Story

Man, that is some good-looking food. No, seriously. They could’ve paired that food with, I dunno, motor oil or something and we’d be all over it.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Pirate’s Life

It’s zombies. It’s pirates. It’s Johnny Cash. Come on, that’s a winning combination any way you cut it.

BUDWEISER: Immigration

About as subtle as a bottle of Bud thrown straight at your skull, this is a highly stylized tale of an immigrant coming to America’s shores and living out every American’s dream: creating his very own never-ending supply of beer. Someone will get offended — someone always gets offended — and someone at the party will miss the point as they fact-check this ad (“There’s no ban on German immigrants!”). But hey, this isn’t college. Nobody’s forcing you to drink Budweiser.

SKITTLES: Romance the Rainbow

Clever little ad. A few points: with a precision throwing arm like this, the young man on the lawn is wasting his talents slinging Skittles to an unappreciative girlfriend and her extended family. Second, hearing people chew food and groan in pleasure as they do is just flat-out disgusting. Third, every commercial would be improved by an extraneous woodchuck.

MICHELOB ULTRA: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

“Working out is the new bar-hopping” is a clever idea. And any time you bring the “Cheers” theme into play, you’re playing with house money.

TIDE: Bradshaw Stain

What seemed like a huge flub in pregame discussions on FOX Sports–a stain on Terry Bradshaw’s shirt–was actually a setup for this ad, in which Bradshaw goes in search of a clean shirt. Cute little idea, but anyone concerned about the integrity of media should be concerned that Tide has — all right, even we know how ridiculous that sentence is.

BUSCH: The Same Sound

If your beer keeps going SSSSHHHHHHH long after you open it, it better give you burps that last equally as long.

SNICKERS: Live Big Game Ad

Adam Driver in a live ad, calling out the score of the game and then destroying an entire western town. Nice idea, but it didn’t quite sell the “live” feel.

BUDWEISER: Ghost of Spuds McKenzie

Ghost dog! Ghost dog! This one goes on a bit long, but it’s a fine premise: the ghost of ‘80s party animal Spuds McKenzie showing a reluctant dude what he’s missing, Christmas Carol-style. The midair-dangling dog was a wee bit creepy, though, we gotta be honest.

WIX: Dinner Date

The best trailer for a movie that does not exist, Jason Statham and Gal Gadot turn a night out into an all-out brawl. Not sure what that has to do with website design, but hey, logic is not a big prerequisite on Super Bowl night.

GRADE: C

MR. CLEAN: Fantasy Clean

You’ve gone your whole life without seeing Mr. Clean’s cartoon butt pumping as he mops the floor. And you did OK without that image, didn’t you. Good luck with that image in your skull for the rest of your days.

AVOCADOS FROM MEXICO: Secret Society

Worth it if only for the gratuitous Tom Brady jab snuck in there in the extended version. The “secrets” were pretty well-trod territory, but I would be interested in learning more about how this crew of bumbling fools somehow managed to hold the keys all the world’s mysteries. On second thought, maybe I wouldn’t.

T-MOBILE: Taxes and Fees; Wireless Pain

Kristen Schaal gets, uh, excited by the prospect of paying a lot for her wireless bill. Interesting fetish there. Good luck explaining that one to the kids.

PORSCHE: Delivering the Mail

I mean, if you had a Porsche, wouldn’t you drive it as far and as fast as you possibly could?

GOOGLE HOME: Take Me Home

The first ad after kickoff leads off with a Pride flag, and proceeds through a heartstring-tugging montage of moments all allegedly needing Google Home to supplement them. Tries to answer the question “Why do I need Google Home?” Does not do so.

TIFFANY: Lady Gaga

Huh. So she has one triumphant halftime show and three minutes later Lady Gaga’s shilling for Tiffany. That’s some upward mobility.

MOBILE STRIKE: I’m Back

The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger his own self, reappears (when did he leave?) to promote the Mobile Strike app. He does so with a range of one-liners from his own movies, but we’re disappointed he didn’t work in “It’s not a tumor!”

84 LUMBER: Journey

A mother and child journey through badlands and bad territory, holding tight to one another along the way. But you can’t leave an ad with a cliffhanger!

BAI: Bai Bai

Christopher Walken does Christopher Walken things. Justin Timberlake gets paid a king’s ransom for sitting there expressionlessly. America!

YELLOW TAIL: Party Roo

Wine company slingin’ wine via a sketchy yellow-suited dude and a CGI kangaroo that moves like some unholy offspring of the girl from the well in The Ring and last year’s Puppymonkeybaby. Good-time party scene: check. Gratuitous bikini? Check. And “Want to pet my ‘roo?” instantly becomes the “Yeah, baby!” of 2017. Do not trust anyone who says it, either ironically or unironically.

IT’S A 10: Bad Hair

“We’re in for four years of bad hair!” Now that’s how you get attention for your product. Of course, getting the attention of the president may not always go the way you’d expect.

ZZZQUIL: Life Keeps You Up

A boss looming over you at night, all night? Why, that would be … gosh, that would be wonderful, right, boss? You’re welcome to come over and bark at me in the middle of the night anytime!

GRADE: D

MICHELIN: Getting You There

Fairly routine ad here. When you need to get somewhere, you need good tires to do so. It’s always strange to downgrade ads with genuinely nice messages, but this is the Big Game, folks. Gotta come stronger than just a sweet message.

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TRANSFORMERS: The Last Knight

You want to bring your film some gravitas, you bring Anthony Hopkins aboard. Odds he even knows what a “Transformer” is? Anyway, big robots smashing stuff is always red meat for a Super Bowl commercial.

GRADE: F

WONDERFUL PISTACHIOS: Workout

It’s a cartoon elephant on a treadmill. The elephant breaks the treadmill. That is an awful lot of money spent on that less-than-spectacular Super Bowl ad.

WENDY’S: Cold As Ice

Cheap burger joints freeze their patties, then heat ‘em up with hair dryers. Again: decent enough premise, but this is the Super Bowl. Decent isn’t enough.

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Cam Newton outruns a vicious defense in Buick’s Super Bowl ad. (Screenshot)
Cam Newton outruns a vicious defense in Buick’s Super Bowl ad. (Screenshot)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.