If you love campy, over-the-top musical interludes and celeb-studded commercials that start out fun until you remember you’re laughing at a Questrade ad, then the Super Bowl is your, you know, Super Bowl. And this year a feigned interest in football was amply rewarded with a fun, bombastic night of Hollywood A-listers, musical legends and a peek at one of the most anticipated trailers of the last couple of years.
Minutes into the start of the 56th Super Bowl, superstar Halle Berry said, “think of tonight’s game as the start of another great movie,” reaffirming the relationship between football and Hollywood, one that’s as long and storied as the game itself. Though it’s been nearly 30 years since the Super Bowl was played in Los Angeles, in many ways it felt like a homecoming, with actors like Berry and The Rock helping to spotlight the parts of this sport that feel like classic Tinseltown, from the dramatic player entrances to the tearful cutaways to veterans. After recently seeing a more muted, pared down Hollywood – with big, red carpet celebrations like the Golden Globes off the air – many of us are desperate for the kind of pageantry that only football and famous people can provide.
The show kicked off with exactly that, imbuing the night with an instant hit of glamour as singer Jhené Aiko gave an electric performance of America the Beautiful alongside a harpist, because well, why NOT a harpist? This is L.A., after all, and subtlety feels decidedly un-American and un-football. Country singer Mickey Guyton rounded out the opening with a soaring version of The Star Spangled Banner that set the tone for what was a perfectly executed celebration of West Coast music in all its loud, boisterous, exciting glory.
This year’s half-time show, one of the most hotly anticipated in many years, was a paean to California, to the faces and voices that have defined L.A. for so many music fans. With superstar rapper, producer and Southern California native Dr. Dre at the helm, everyone from Snoop Dogg to 50 Cent, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige delivered a mesmerizing, jubilant dose of nostalgia, performing mega-hits such as Still D.R.E., Lose Yourself and In Da Club to a hometown crowd.
You don’t actually realize how badly you need to hear Mary J. Blige scream-singing the words “no more pain,” until you see it and then you feel like maybe you can’t live without it. It was an instantly perfect half-time show, the kind of spectacle non-football fans like me are willing to spend four hours watching football for. Everything from the birds-eye view of Compton to what I’m calling “party portables” was perfect. As LeBron James put it, “Omg WOW WOW, Greatest Half-Time Show I’ve Ever Seen!”
James was one of many celebs in the stadium stands, alongside Bennifer and Kanye. But there were just as many A-list cameos in the commercials this year.
On the U.S. broadcast, ads ranged from the cute, like Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen’s bromance, to the clever, like Anna Kendrick’s turn as Barbie’s realtor in Rocket Mortgages ad, to the bizarre, where cryptocurrency company Coinbase aired a very expensive commercial that was little more than a floating QR code, attached to a website that crashed just as millions of people discovered the company for the first time, and the downright creepy, with a dystopic plug for Cue, a digital health monitor and a straightforward spot for Scientology.
There were also more nods to nostalgia with Jamie-Lynn Sigler reprising her iconic role as Meadow Soprano for Chevrolet, Lindsay Lohan plugging Planet Fitness and Matthew McConaughey donning another astronaut suit for Salesforce. Plus, we finally got a look at Jordan Peele’s new thriller, Nope.
All in, Super Bowl’s return to Los Angeles felt like a night at the movies and lent the event a sense of drama and excitement that perhaps we’ve all been sorely lacking in our day-to-day lives, and if it takes football to return some of that glamour to 2022, well so be it.
Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.