Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ed Stoppard, Leelee Sobieski, Jeffrey Tambor, Max von Sydow, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Andrei Kaikov
Written by: Jamie Bradshaw, Aleksandr Dulerayn
Directed by: Jamie Bradshaw, Aleksandr Dulerayn
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content
Running Time: 106
Date: 09/07/2012

Branded (2012)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Stark Raving Ads

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Certainly the topic of marketing and advertising is ripe for satirizing, probably more so now than ever before, and Branded certainly gets points for bringing up some great ideas. But the movie is so strange and off-putting that it's not likely to gain much traction.

In the Russia of the future, Misha (Ed Stoppard) is a gifted, visionary marketing genius, making horror movie trailers and other ads. He also spies on clients for his boss, Bob Gibbons (Jeffrey Tambor). Meanwhile, an evil marketing guru (Max von Sydow) comes up with an intricate plan to revitalize the ailing fast food industry by making people believe that fat is beautiful. He uses a makeover reality show to kickstart his plan, and Misha and Bob's niece Abby (Leelee Sobieski) become the show's unwitting producers. When Misha realizes what's going on, he retreats, performs a strange cleansing ritual, and returns, now able to see the physical "monsters" of people's desires. Can he use his skills for the good of mankind?

Now, satire usually implies at least a little bit of humor, and Branded is mostly humorless; and if it ever actually tried to be funny, then it fails. If a satire should be pointed, then this movie is more on the dull side.

Part of the problem is that the movie spends far too much time setting itself up, and wasting time on details that never go anywhere. The "cleansing ritual" sequence in particular seems to take up an entire reel, when it could have been presented far more succinctly. Then, the entire production has a queasy tone -- especially in the presentation of those hideous monsters during the final stretch -- making it hard to get too excited about its ideas. Viewers may never want to eat food again.
Lionsgate's new Blu-ray comes wiht a commentary track featuring writer/directors Jamie Bradshaw and Alexander Doulerain, plus trailers.
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