“The world moves fast, but change isn’t always a good thing when you got it right the first time around,” Billy Dee Williams says in a new 15-second spot for Colt 45, the malt liquor he hawked twenty five years ago, from 1986 to 1991, and which has just re-instituted him as spokesman. But you can’t tell me that in present day context this advertisement isn’t as much about Colt 45 itself as it is Billy Dee desperately trying to send a shot across the bow of Rian Johnson.
Two years ago this month, Wesley Morris, in writing about something else entirely, heartbreakingly termed Billy Dee an “emblem of an era that didn’t matter much beyond the moment [he was] in.” Oof. And Colt 45 and those glorious PG-13 commercials of yesteryear are emblems within an emblem. They call to mind a time when Billy Dee Williams, the most dapper man in 12 systems, could hawk a product and make it matter because he mattered. Now, he can’t get the call he so desperately wants to be in the new “Star Wars” movies, and because he can’t, he’s gone back to pitching Colt 45 in what plays less like a zesty endorsement of a once fruitful, now flailing and always shady product (peddled to inner cities rather than the suave clientele to whom these ads are supposedly pitched) and more like a courtly man’s cry for help.
“Because sometimes a true original doesn’t need to change a thing,” Billy Dee concludes as he cracks a Colt 45 in the new ad, issuing the semi-famous catchphrase in conclusion, “It works every time.” Oh Billy Dee, I fear that it in this case, no matter how much you want it to, it won’t.