When you think about the most significant film of the 20th century, what do you think of? Citizen Kane? The Godfather? Casablanca? Those are all good guesses, but you're wrong. Don't feel too bad, for the most significant film of all time was made in 1991 and most people have never even heard of it, let alone seen it. It's this 5-minute '90s commercial for Sizzler, and it's the most captivating work of cinema I've ever seen. Between the truly bizarre visuals, the song lyrics that read like the first page of the Sizzler employee manual, the fact that it's shot on video, and the unapologetically '90s attire, this commercial is everything, and I want to share it with you.
This whole thing comes across as a fever dream that would have Don Draper wake up screaming. The basic premise is this: everyone works these days, but they still want home-cooked meals, and they don't just want to order off menus like some schlubs. They want the freedom to choose: menus or buffet! In and of itself this sounds kind of OK, right? But it's not. It's so not. First of all, you'd think the key words in this restaurant commercial would have something to do with food, but no. The main themes really seem to be "freedom" and "choice." Hand to God, they actually use the phrase "right to choose," which I guess wasn't as rhetorically loaded back in 1991. Then there's the jingle, which possesses a level of jingoistic patriotism I didn't think existed before WWII or before 9/11:
All across America the song of freedom rings; a song that's growing stronger every day.
It tells us when we listen to the message that it sings.
Let us lift our voices! We can make the choices! We will make the most of all that freedom brings.
Sizzler is the one that brings us choices! Reaching out across the USA!
Each and every day, get a little freedom in your life.
I couldn't make this up if I tried, you guys. My husband (who read back the lyrics to me so I could type them up for you—he couldn't do it without cracking up) astutely commented that it sounds like a jingle Uncle Jesse and Joey would come up with on Full House . The horrible lyrics and overly dramatic music would be enough to resign this commercial to the annals of sublimely terrible, but we haven't even gotten to the visuals yet. Now remember, these are visuals that are meant to sell you on eating at Sizzler:
This weird sea captain gazing down upon a little girl who uncomfortably refuses to meet his eye and doesn't seem to know him
This young girl looking smugly menacing with a baseball bat
A random construction worker
By the way, I should point out that none of the people you see outside of Sizzler actually appear in the later footage of inside Sizzler. So it's like, "These are the kind of people who eat at the Sizzler...except not really."
This man and his daughter on a carousel
All these shots last approximately 4 seconds longer than you're comfortable looking at them, except this one. This one goes on forever for some reason.
These people you just caught having an affair at Sizzler
This sailor and his best gal
This cowboy and his best gal
By the way, that's a sailor, and construction worker, and a cowboy: we are an American Indian and a cop away from The Village people.
This douchebag on his state-of-the-art cell phone
This woman shaking sweat out of her hair after jogging
...because that's bound to give people an appetite.
But, to be fair, they totally nail it. Whoever this actress is deserves a goddamn Oscar because right now I want nothing more than to eat that ice cream sundae.
So bravo, Sizzler. Thank you for this little bit of 90s magic...and for allowing me to get a little freedom in my life. Here's the full experience below:
Images: YouTube (11)