Is it too early to declare that Branded is the worst film of 2012?
Probably. After all, there’s still 3 more months left in October and who knows what could happen. I’m still holding out hope that Zero Dark Thirty will be just as bad as I’m expecting it to be and I recently realized that I find the trailer for The Sessions to be kind of annoying. There’s still a slight chance that I’ll see a film worse than Branded before 2013.
However, I do think that it’s safe to say that Branded is the worst film of 2012 so far.
At the very least, Branded deserves the award for 2012’s most deceptive trailer.
On the basis of the trailer, you would be perfectly justified in expecting Branded to be a rip-off of John Carpenter’s classic They Live. You would be justified in expecting that the film would be a thriller, involving aliens using advertising to control people’s minds.
What you would not expect is that Branded would turn out to be an overlong, extremely preachy and didactic film about a Russian advertising guru who, after producing an ill-fated reality show, spends 6 years living as a shepherd until he happens to ritualistically sacrifice a red cow and is therefore inspired to lead an advertising war against fast food companies. You wouldn’t expect the film to be such a confused mess that, while watching it, you actually find yourself standing up to leave the theater because you’ve mistakenly assumed that the film is over (as I did several times). You also probably wouldn’t expect that the entire film would be narrated by yet another cow, this one floating around in the night sky and sending down lightning bolts to both enlighten and destroy various advertising gurus.
All of that happens and more! And you know what? As interesting as it may appear to be in writing, it’s all unbelievably dull when watched on-screen. The Russian advertising genius is played by Ed Stoppard and his American girlfriend is played by Leelee Sobieski and, as a couple, they have absolutely zero chemistry. You never believe their relationship and, as such, it’s difficult to understand why Sobieski’s character is so determined to make things work with a guy who appears to be insane. Sobieski’s father is played by Jeffrey Tambor. Whereas everyone else in the film underplays to the point that they sometimes appear to be sleepwalking, Tambor overplays every scene, as if he thought he was appearing in an episode of Arrested Development instead of this movie. In the end, the best performance in the film comes from the talking cow in the sky, even if she seems awfully proud for a character who spends the entire movie spouting banal clichés.
(Seriously, did you know that advertising is a form of manipulation? Well, you do now! Thanks, Space Cow!)
For no particular reason, Max Von Sydow is in the film as well. His role is really just a cameo and the entire time he’s on-screen, he’s got a small smile on his lips as if he’s saying, “Did you really pay money to watch this crap?”
In its defense, there is one — and only one — impressive scene in Branded but you can see that scene in the trailer for free.
There might be a worse film than Branded released this year.
But I doubt it.