When this movie first hit theaters, I thought it looked super cool in a They Live kind of way. I figured maybe all of these corporations and brands were going to have these crazy invisible parasites that caused you to want to purchase their products. Maybe it was aliens and there was a mind control signal that was being beamed into people to make them compliant. There were all of these crazy notions that I had about Branded and then the reality was just a movie that was like “Hey did you know that corporations like it when you buy their stuff?” OH MY GOD! WHAT A REVELATION!
The movie starts with our hero, Misha, as a young child in Russia. He gets hit by a lightning bolt after having a vision of a cow made out of stars winking at him and this somehow endows him with magical marketing powers. So Misha gets super awesome at selling things to people but then there is a conspiracy by fast food corporations to make people be fat positive so that they will eat more burgers and this conspiracy ruins his life. So he goes and lives out in the wilderness for a while before sacrificing a bull in a weird ceremony for no reason which gives him super “brand vision” where he sees personifications of marketing. He then uses his new-found super power of hallucinating to destroy all marketing by making corporations advertise in the dumbest way possible somehow.
The acting in this is fairly good, at the very least. Jeffrey Tambor plays the wise old mentor and Leelee Sobieski is the love interest. We also get Max von Sydow as the marketing mastermind behind the fast food conspiracy. The problem is that nobody really gets any amazing moments to shine in the movie. Misha (played by Ed Stoppard), gets plenty of time to mug for the camera once he starts seeing things but it never really gets played for laughs and the times when it seems to be going for creepy just fall flat partially due to some fairly bad CGI and partially because of the absurdity of it. There is also a narrator that keeps explaining things throughout the movie and SPOILER ALERT the narrator is the fucking star cow that Misha saw in the beginning of the movie or something? What the hell? So the narrator is, what, an angel or God or a cow from beyond the stars?
The movie definitely had a great deal of ambition and wanted to tackle a fairly large topic in a way that your average person could understand. Unfortunately, the movie tries to be entertaining while also giving a larger message but ends up being fairly bad at both. Being set in Russia, it had a lot of interesting things to say about communism being all about marketing and Lenin being a genius at creating the Socialist brand. I probably would have liked this way better if it was just a documentary on marketing in history and the tricks of the trade that they use to get people to buy things. As is, we got a disjointed story about the evil of corporations and possibly the message that God hates commercials because he needed some guy to be his prophet of getting rid of advertising. It’s like, come on, God. Get a DVR like the rest of us and just skip them. It’s not that bad, I promise.
In all, I give Branded a 2 out of 5. It was slow and meandering and relied far too heavily on weird coincidence and narration. That being said, it was at least interesting enough to hold my attention so it wasn’t a total shit show.
Favorite part of the movie: The end with brands fighting other brands using weird CGI personifications was some hilarious Langoliers tier shenanigans.
Least favorite part: I hate you winking space cow. I hate you so much.