The Most Egregious Product Placement in Movie History

As Morgan Spurlock’s new film The Greatest Movie Ever Sold shows, in Spurlock’s flip, kinda-persuasive manner, films since the beginning have been funded through the surreptitious selling of prominent product placement.  Throw a can of Coke in there, that’s your catering budget.  Have your destined-to-end-up-together couple ‘meet-cute’ while doing their laundry in front of a bank of Maytag washer/dryers, that’s an upgrade on your lead actress from Jessica Biel to Anne Hathaway.  And, if you’re really willing to sign your soul over to the corporate overlords, well, you might be these…

1. The Invention of Lying.  This one pisses me off to no end.  I love Ricky Gervais, and I loved, I mean, absolutely loved the first half or so of this movie; great premise, cleverly executed, with some truly hilarious people (Gervais, Jason Bateman, Louis C.K., Tina Fey, Jeffrey Tambor, Jonah Hill, John Hodgman, and on and on), and even one of the most affecting scenes (Ricky and his mom in the hospital) that I’ve seen in a long time.  Sure, the movie peters out soon after that as it seems to lose sight of the promise of its central idea, and the less said about Jennifer Garner the better

This goes on for a loooooooong time...

(always a good rule, by the way), but the thing that truly turns me against a movie that I really like just find is (SPOILER-Y now…) when Gervais, trying to create a new set of commandments for this suddenly-gullible world creates them ON THE BACK OF TWO DAMNED NATIONAL PIZZA CHAIN BOXES!!!  Oh, my, God.  And not only that, but in the whole lengthy, utterly pivotal scene, he’s holding the two boxes, Moses-style up in front of him SO THAT THE CORPORATE LOGO IS DEAD CENTER ON THE SCREEN!?!??!  Seriously, it’s about five solid minutes of uninterrupted screen time; I’m absolutely certain they get more screen time than Tina Fey.  The worst I’ve ever seen.

2.  Zombieland.  This flip, little zombie doodle might violate nearly every one of the immutable ZOMBIE RULES, but it’s got some decent laughs and the cast (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson,

Were so hip, we have corporate sponsorhip...

Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone) is really appealing.  But there’s a running joke about Woody’s constant craving for A PARTICULAR SNACK CAKE BRAND that gets under my skin.  He’s constantly mentioning it, they hijack a truck with the company logo prominently displayed on the side, and the whole thing pays off at the end.  His craving for such a low-rent snack might be seen as satire by the less-discriminating, but we know better around here…

3. Regarding Henry.  Boy do I hate this movie.  The first film script from overrated slicky-boy J.J. Abrams (‘Lost’, ‘Alias’, ‘Fringe’, Cloverfield, Star Trek, the soon-to-be-overrated ‘Super 8′) commits

This meal is nice and all, but me want a particular, band-name cracker food, please.

the Forest Gump crime of equating feeble-mindedness with saintliness after a-hole exec Harrison Ford gets shot in the head (while buying cigarettes, no less!) and then realizes he’s better off grinning vaguely and remembering how to make awkward love to Annette Bening.  Oh, and as a part of his rehabilitation with a saintly black therapist, he eventually remembers an important fact about a famous hotel thanks to the prominently-displayed box of HIS FAVORITE CRACKER BRAND WHICH HAS THE SAME NAME AS THE FAMOUS HOTEL.  Just a topper of hate frosting on the loathing cake that is this movie.

4. Switching Channels and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. No one remembers this truly tepid His Girl Friday newsroom love triangle comedy starring Kathleen Turner, Burt Reynolds and Christopher Reeve, which is understandable.  All I really recall is the blatant placement of A TOTALLY DIFFERENT (AND MORE RIGHT-WING AND EVIL) NATIONAL PIZZA CHAIN THAN THE ONE IN THE INVENTION OF LYING.  I recall an entire, would-be wisecracking scene played out with an open pizza box LOGO-CENTERED lolling open in the middle, like it was out to jump in to the conversation.  Even more distracting than Burt’s hairpiece.  And don’t get me started on those damned turtles…

I hate you guys...

5. Blind Date.  Again, I’m gonna work from distant memory on this one; (film geek cred aside, I am NOT going to rewatch this early Bruce Willis comedy.  I’m just not.)  But what I do remember is, in the very last scene, when all is well, the lovers are united, and they’re having a romantic canoodle on the beach, there’s a 2-liter bottle of A WELL-KNOWN SODA BEVERAGE IN AN ICE BUCKET IN THE FOREGROUND, WHILE THEY’RE IN THE BACKGROUND?!?!  Can this be true?  Can anyone verify this?  It’s burned into my brain!!!

6. The Paper. Even though it’s from renowned, overrated blandmeister Ron Howard, I’m pretty

Wait, cut! You guys are all hiding the soda machine...

fond of this newspaper dramedy starring Michael Keaton.  It ain’t Broadcast News, but it’s got its moments.  And a Zombieland-style would-be camouflaged running gag where Keaton’s editor nevr has change for the PROMINENTLY-CENTRAL NATIONAL SOFT DRINK CHAIN’S VENDING MACHINE.  Listen Ronny- you are not a subtle director, and nobody’s fooled…

7. Mac and Me and Bye Bye Love. Someone at A NATIONAL MEGA FAST FOOD CHAIN’s marketing department no doubt got a big raise for placing his/her corporate master’s grease-trap right at the center of these.  Mac & Me is pretty notorious, both as a shameless, cut-rate E.T. knockoff and as perhaps the first film completely, transparently solely in existence as a full-length commercial.  Yeah, I know E.T. liked a CERTAIN BITE-SIZED CANDY, but you really have to see the depths of corporate-saturation in this one.  Or, really, you don’t.  And Bye Bye Love, a justly-forgotten divorced dad comedy starring Paul Reiser, Matthew Modine, and Randy Quaid centers on the weekly play-dates the three have AT THAT SAME, RAINFOREST-DEPLETING NATIONAL FAST FOOD CHAIN’s booger-smeared playlands.  Just sad…

Any more you can think of?

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Published in: on April 5, 2011 at 6:07 pm  Comments (7)  
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  1. We groaned out loud when Ricky Gervais showed up with those [CORPORATE PIZZA CHAIN] boxes.

    In my mind, one of the most blatant examples (for which I cannot find a screenshot, sad to say) is the breakfast scene in Unbreakable

    You’re leaving out the Tom Hanks block of blatant corporate bootlicking, including the prime examples: the love letter to AOL and the two-hour tie-in for a package transport company (in which, hilariously, only one package gets to its destination).

    You’ve got Mail is particularly hateful, because (spoiler!) it not only tacitly approves of the way predatory corporate giants starve out small business, but also indicates that it’s SUPER FOR EVERYONE, HURRAY!

    I haven’t seen it, but I imagine there are similar brand-loving placements in the xenophobic-sounding flick where he plays an indeterminate-but-humorous foreigner stuck in an airport — what an opportunity for Starbucks and Cinnabon, huh?

  2. Oops! Unbreakable spoilers: dad and kid TROPICANA sit at the breakfast table TROPICANA quietly eating breakfast TROPICANA, and dad silently slides a newspaper TROPICANA across to the kid, showing him the headline and thus tacitly admitting to being TROPICANA a hero.

    In the establishing shot of the breakfast table, the biggest, most focal foreground object is a carton of orange juice… I can’t recall what brand.

    (TROPICANA.)

  3. My favorite is when they use Dr. Pepper to find the hole in the spaceship in Mission to Mars. There’s a particularly sexy slow rotating shot of Dr. Pepper looking like it just revealed it was an angel.

  4. To be fair, Dr. Pepper is delicious…

  5. Short Circuit – one of the first images the newly alive Johnny 5 sends back to Newton Crosby and Indian Fisher Stevens is a Dr. Pepper sign.

    Strictly Ballroom – The Australian dancy duo practices in front of the world’s largest light-up Coke billboard.

    Superman 2 – Lois smokes Marlboros, and I’m pretty sure Superman later throws one of the Kryptonian villains (General Zod or Non, I don’t remember which) into a giant Marlboro billboard. Product placement and an anti-smoking message, maybe?

  6. Oh, and then there’s scene upon scene of product shots in Return of the Killer Tomatoes, but that’s intentional and all played for laughs, so I don’t know if that counts.

    See also Wayne’s World and the incredibly underrated Josie and the Pussycats.

  7. The there’s this (courtesy of the AV Club):

    http://www.avclub.com/articles/zookeeper,56224/


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