An Ephemeral Look at Product Placement

There are plenty of lists detailing the worst product placement in movies; the fantastic Cracked.com’s The 10 Most Shameful Product Placements in Movie History is worth a look in particular. Everyone knows how E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was originally meant to use M&Ms rather than Reese’s Pieces, and that sales of the latter increased by 85% after the release of the 1982 film (Janet Wasko, Hollywood in the Information Age, 1995, p.190). Rather than compile another list or rehash more facts, I thought I would look at some interesting points (the term ‘highlights’ may be misleading at this juncture, as may the term ‘interesting’) throughout the history of product placement in Hollywood.

The Old Timey Product Placement

Product placement in the movies is nothing new, despite its prominence in the last thirty years. In 1945’s Mildred Pierce, Joan Crawford’s drink of choice was Jack Daniels. The placement of this brand was less obvious than some more recent attempts at promoting drinks.

The Quintessential 80s Product Placement

Part of the reason Santa Claus: The Movie holds a special place in my heart is because of the shameless product placement of those most high-profile of brands; Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. It is made all the more amusing by the fact that the film appears to propagate an anti-capatilist message. The McDonalds product placement complemented the Santa Claus: The Movie Happy Meal toys (as seen in the above advertisement). Product placement tie-ins truly reached a zenith in the mid 1980s.

The Mundane Product Placement

In late 2011, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol heavily feaured BMW cars. Earlier that year, How Do You Know featured another type of transport. The Metrobus was omnipresent in James L. Brooks’ film. In the movie, this mode of New York transport was punctual, reliable and clean. Only natives of the city can say how reliable this depiction is. As product placements go, it is hardly the most glamorous.

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is out on DVD from 27th February 2012.

Film Review: Rio

Rio offers animated fun with its bird out of cage tale, as it were. Good animation and fun songs ensure that the film ticks along nicely, although Rio is pleasant rather than exhilarating.

Domesticated macaw Blu lives in Minnesota with his adoring owner Linda. When bird expert Tulio spots him, he offers Linda and Blu a chance to go to Rio so that Blu can mate with Jewel, the only other bird of their endangered species. Linda and Blu go to Brazil, but things don’t go exactly according to plan…

Rio treads a familiar path with its outsider who finds his way narrative. Children should enjoy the story, but older viewers may get a little restless with the predictability of proceedings. Carlos Saldanha’s film shows little innovation in terms of story, however the characters and set pieces sufficiently maintain attention.

Screenwriter Don Rhymer wisely eschews the more realistic aspects of the macaw’s need to reproduce. Instead, Rio becomes a love story between Blu and Jewel. Rather than dwell on the idea of producing offspring, the film instead concentrates on the blossoming and sometimes tumultuous relationship between the two endangered birds. This has the same desired effect, without the need to give too much detail in a children’s film.

The characters featured in the film are quite typical of this style of animation. There are the two protagonists and an array of amusing sidekicks. Nevertheless, what Rio does quite well is replicate the traits of each bird in their human counterpart. Like Blu, Linda lacks confidence and is very comfortable in her regular existence. Both human and bird have inevitable breakthrough moments, which turn out to be amusing and heartwarming, respectively.

Unsurprisingly given the title, most of the action takes place in Rio. Some of the depictions of the city are rather questionable, however. The slum areas appear remarkably empty for a location that is so densely populated. Moreover, the scene where street kid Fernando longingly looks into the home of a family is acutely reminiscent of the very similar elementary inference used in Santa Claus: The Movie.

Rio features an all-star cast, but has not relied on these names in the film’s advertising. Jesse Eisenberg is perfectly cast as Blu, bringing shades of Woody Allen-style neuroticism to the character. Anne Hathaway is feisty as love interest Jewel, while Jamie Foxx shows off his vocal talents as Nico. Jermaine Clement is fantastic as Nigel, particularly in the musical number.

Rio is a fun watch, featuring all the colour and energy you would expect for a film set in the vibrant city. While it ticks the boxes for an animated feature, Rio never reaches beyond these modest aims.