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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Branded is a bizarre, futuristic satire on marketing and advertising set in Russia. It will definitely get older teens thinking about the effects of marketing and advertising and how people can be made to believe that they "need" certain products. But at the same time, it's strange, humorless, and unpleasant, with some violent events (such as beatings) and lots of blood in certain scenes (including a cow being sacrificed off screen). Strange, unsettling monsters litter the skyline and battle each other during the movie's final third. Characters have sex on more than one occasion, but the only nudity is the male lead's backside in a non-sexual scene. Language includes several uses of "f--k" and "s--t," and characters drink and get drunk in a few scenes. Fake products are used in the satire, but they sometimes resemble real products, and real products are also occasionally mentioned and/or shown.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In the Russia of the future, Misha (Ed Stoppard) is a visionary marketing genius who makes 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 Abby (Leelee Sobieski) -- Bob's niece -- 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?
Is it any good?
Certainly the topic of marketing and advertising is ripe for satirizing, probably more so now than ever before, and BRANDED 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. Moreover, satire usually implies at least a little bit of humor, and Branded is mostly humorless -- if it was ever actually trying 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 Branded spends far too much time setting itself up, 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. And then there's the fact that 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.
Talk to your kids about ...
In the movie, marketing gurus manipulate people to the point that they actually commit violence. Do you think it's easy for people to get caught up in a kind of mass hysteria? Can you think of real-life examples when that's happened?
Did this movie make you want to eat fast food or buy any kind of products? Or did it make you want to avoid them?
What is a satire? Is it supposed to be funny, or can it be serious? What did this movie satirize? Was it effective?
- In theaters: September 7, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: January 15, 2013
- Cast: Ed Stoppard, Jeffrey Tambor, Leelee Sobieski, Max von Sydow
- Directors: Aleksandr Dulerayn, Jamie Bradshaw
- Studio: Roadside Attractions
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and some sexual content