In the future, fast food companies, faced with flagging sales, seek to reestablish their market hegemony through parasitic mind control.  Their ploy works so well in the experimental market of Russia that the nation’s ideal of beauty itself has been manipulated, so that obese replaces svelte as the desired body type.  Only one man, Misha (Ed Stoppard), has the visualized insight to unravel the aggressive marketing’s workings.  He can actually see the balloonlike monkeys riding everybody’s backs, including those of his wife and son.  The phantom swells like a cartoonish erection until the host has satisfied its demand by visiting the fast food restaurant associated with it, resulting in a population of zombie-like junk food addicts.  Misha, a visionary marked from childhood for a special destiny, devotes his life to destroying the fast food market by fighting branding with branding of his own.

Branded clearly sees itself as being somehow highly original in its exposure of how the public’s tastes and perceptions are largely dictated from sinister corporate boardrooms.  Had the films The Stuff, They Live, Happy Hour, and Wag the Dog never been made, Branded might claim some slim excuse to exist.  Coming when it does, however, Branded only pats itself on the back for restating with the addition of computer-generated monsters and even less convincing profundity what every intelligent person in the audience already knows.  What might have worked as a twenty-minute satirical short film ends up overstaying its welcome by about eighty minutes, with the vague emotional flatness of Misha’s character and his relationship with wife Leelee Sobieski hardly helping to humanize what amounts to a wearying feature-length joke.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Branded is:

6. Anti-police.  Officers beat Misha unnecessarily as they arrest him.

5. Anti-Christian.  Misha, in a scene played for humor, turns to God only after being tortured by a debt collector.

4. Anti-family, with no positive examples.

3. Statist.  Misha ludicrously expects his government to outlaw all advertising – and it does!  That Branded sees government as an antidote to brainwashing or as somehow removed from the world of marketing is indicative of its simplistic naievety.  Freedom of expression in this film is transformed into something predatory that must be stamped out to preserve human dignity.

2. Anti-obesity.  Branded purports to reveal a nightmarish future world in which most people are fat, neglecting to notice that this is the society in which viewers already live.

1. Anti-corporatism (i.e., pro-yawn).  Rather than providing you with products you actually want, McDonald’s et al, Branded would have you believe, have been brainwashing you all these years.

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