I was in before I even watched this teaser for John Bronco. All I had to hear was “Walton Goggins plays a rodeo rider, racing champion, and ‘70s sex symbol” and I was hooked. The name, John Bronco? The mustache? The theme song? The fact that it’s made by Jake Szymanski, the director of HBO’s hilarious sports mockumentaries 7 Days in Hell and Tour de Pharmacy? That’s all just icing on the cake.
Okay, this is obviously sponsored content*. Ford’s bringing the Bronco back next year after 25 years on ice, and what better way to gain awareness among car buyers who both love Walton Goggins and are old enough to feel nostalgic for Burt Reynolds-style masculinity than a comedy short that jams ‘em both up with that classic SUV? At least talented people were hired on both sides of the camera to bring this to life. I’ve skipped past enough ads over the last 12 years of streaming and DVRs that I’m okay with watching a long-form commercial that stars an actor as talented and funny as Goggins.
*: We’ve been informed that, although Ford did cooperate with the production of John Bronco, the concept and film did originate with Imagine Documentaries, and that Ford then agreed to work with them on it. “The film was actually created through Imagine Documentaries, who came up with the idea after Ford announced they were bringing back the Bronco. They saw how the Bronco reflected some of the most influential decades in pop culture and thought it all combined for an irresistible premise for a documentary,” an Imagine Documentaries representative tells us.
I also have a soft spot for detailed fictional biographies set in the ‘60s and ‘70s. To wit, here’s how John Bronco’s press materials describe its title character:
Some have said that if you were famous before the internet, you might as well never have existed. Such is the case for John Bronco, the greatest pitchman who ever lived. In 1966, Ford tapped him to race their new prototype SUV at the Baja 500 in Mexico. Not only did he win, but he gave a rousing speech that rallied a nation. Legend has it that Ford named the new car “Bronco” after John, made him the face of their campaign and skyrocketed him to stardom. His commercials were on every channel and his jingle went triple-platinum. John launched his own cologne, breakfast cereal, video game, action figure, you name it. He was the very embodiment of the American dream, that is, until it all came crashing down.
“John Bronco is one of those mythic characters you almost can’t believe is real, but thanks to the treasure trove of archival footage we found, you can see he definitely is,” says director Szymanski in a press release. “We finished this film right before the pandemic struck which meant, unfortunately, I was not able to direct it from home in my underwear. That is, however, how I‘m giving this quote.”
Remember when we were teased with the possibility of a Crocodile Dundee sequel starring Danny McBride and Chris Hemsworth, and it just turned out to be a Super Bowl ad? This whole thing feels like a Super Bowl ad campaign that’s actually going to wind up with a real movie. Or at least a real short film—according to its page at the Tribeca Film Festival, John Bronco is 36 minutes long, about the same as Szymanski’s HBO specials.
Here’s the teaser. Get ready to have this song seared in your head. John Bronco is produced by Imagine Documentaries and co-stars Tim Meadows, Tim Baltz, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bo Derek, and Dennis Quaid as the narrator.