BRANDED ( 2012 ) – The Review
BRANDED slithered ( like the flick’s CGI beasties ) last Friday with very, very little fanfare. Kind of appropriate since it’s a film about the evil of marketing…and advertising…and consumerism…the list trudges on and on. And it wants to be a satire / mind-blowing thriller, perhaps like the original ROBOCOP. I doubt if that classic’s director, Paul Verhoeven, could have done anything with this garbled mess of a script. Well, believe it or not, BRANDED had two directors! The best thing I can say about this new flick is that it’s something that Edward D. Wood, Jr. might have had a hand in making if he were still around. That may not be a fair comparison since Wood’s Grade-Z flicks are still pretty entertaining, while BRANDED is a real cinematic endurance test.
The bulk of the film is set in the new Russia. But first we start with a flashback to the 1980′s and the evil ole’ USSR. Young lad Misha is waiting in one of those long, winding lines we always heard about ( usually for one roll of bathroom tissue ), when he’s struck by lightning! Cut to a Polynesian island retreat where the legendary old Marketing Guru ( Max Von Sydow ) meets the heads of the world’s fast food chains. Seems the eateries are floundering and they need the master’s help. Jump to present day Russia where adult Misha ( Ed Stoppard ) is an award-winning advertising wiz working alongside American Bob Gibbons ( Jeffrey Tambor ), who just might be an intelligence agent. Misha catches the eye of Bob’s ambitious niece, Abby ( Leelee Sobieski ). They join forces ( in business and the bedroom ) to produce a big makeover reality TV show. When things go horribly wrong, the Guru swoops in with his master plan while Misha and Abby are separated when he’s thrown in the slammer. Years later she tracks him down. After doing his time, Misha now tends to a herd of cattle far, far from the urban sprawl. After a ritual involving a red cow ( ?! ), he returns to the big city. Seems that now Misha can see things other folks can’t. The desires for products create weird monsters that threaten civilization. Can Misha stop these consumer critters before they destroy all mankind?
Or something like that. It’s all so pompous and ludicrous. The monsters seen in the poster art and a few TV spots are bulbous, floating amoebas and snails with elements of several artist styles, a bit of Dr. Seuss, Ralph Steadman, and the Chiodo Brothers ( one prominent floatie has a big red nose and a white face like those alien killer clowns ). And they don’t do much besides bounce into each other and burst apart or form bigger, uglier mutant parade-type balloons. An attack from green dragons doesn’t liven things up any. And you’ve got to slog through an hour of heavy-handed satire of burger chains and reality TV before you see them! What did these actors get from this script? My affection for Tambor was truly tested, but his lifetime pass thanks to TV’s ” The Larry Sanders Show ” and ” Arrested Development ” remains intact. Von Sydow has a couple of scenes, but he’s basically doing an extended cameo as he wears different track suits while he lectures in front of some tacky green screen effects. Sobieski is a wild-eyed sexpot ( nearly bursting out of her wardrobe ) for the first half and has strained scenes with a badly dubbed child actor in the second half. For most of his screen time, Stoppard alternates between bored and hysterical. A scene on the dance floor with Sobieski looming over Stoppard overwhelmed the dialogue ( something about how Lenin was a good marketer ). hmmm, maybe that was a good thing. All the while the film makers are hammering their themes. Yeah, we know fast food’s not good for us! And we shouldn’t trust ads! Mad magazine’s been saying that for nearly 60 years. BRANDED is a colossal, pretentious train wreck of a film that will test any bad movie aficionado. I should just be grateful I didn’t have to pony up a few extra bucks to see the evil marketing monsters in the miracle of 3D! Now if this had been a remake of the classic Chuck Conners TV western, well…
.5 Out of 5 Stars