IN AN EARLIER CENTURY, all products in movies were generic. No labels were ever shown when William Powell poured gin, Bette Davis lit a cigarette or Marilyn Monroe sprayed on perfume.
That has all changed in the last few decades, since companies have discovered the joy of product-placement deals. But in the year 2000, such blatant plugs have moved to a new level: Products are not only visible — they are now key plot points.
The storyline of “What Women Want” hinges on Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt working on an ad campaign for Nike (with the eventual results lovingly shown, in great detail, onscreen).
Few companies have ever gotten more onscreen time than Federal Express in “Cast Away.” The first 10 minutes of the pic examine the company’s scrupulous efficiency; the company’s logo pops up on airplanes, trucks, envelopes — and on packages that wash ashore with Tom Hanks, who obsesses on them for half the movie.
On the other hand, such key plugs are not always positive. The title character in “Nurse Betty” (Renee Zellweger), unwittingly endangers her life because she borrows a Buick Le Sabre.
Even more of an anti-plug: Pacific Gas & Electric in “Erin Brockovich.” It’s clear that the company execs are bullying and guilty of dumping toxic waste: “Those arrogant PG&E fuckers!” Julia Roberts proclaims. (This movie does for PG&E what “The Insider” did for Brown & Williamson tobacco.)
So are brand names a good or bad thing? We’ll let the reader decide. Here are the winners of the 2000 Brandies, honoring the year’s most notable plugs.
- In “Keeping the Faith,” Ben Stiller and Jenna Elfman go to a movie and run into friends — all of whom are holding Pepsi cups. The Pepsi shots are repeated in a romantic montage and again during the closing credits.
- In “The Perfect Storm,” local bar the Crow’s Nest features three neon Bud Light signs, a Budweiser metal sign and a big Bud Light sticker on the pooltable lamp, while the customers are seen drinking only one kind of beer. The kids, however, drink Pepsi.
- There’s no Pepsi for Eddie Murphy in “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.” In various scenes, he drinks Diet Coke, pauses by a Coca-Cola machine, passes a hot dog cart featuring plenty of Coke cans and hides his fountain-of-youth formula in the fridge, between cans of Classic Coke and Diet Coke.
A TESTIMONIAL WORTH MILLIONS (ASSUMING PEOPLE WANT TO LOOK LIKE HER)
- In the docu “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” the former televangelist and makeup maven says, “Here’s my mascara that I’m so famous for. As you can see, it is L’Oreal Waterproof Lash Out Makeup. As you see, it’s much used, much loved.”
- In “American Psycho,” serial killer Christian Bale stuffs the body of a victim (Jared Leto) into a Jean Paul Gaultier garment bag.
- In “Scary Movie,” a woman gets killed in front of a Norge refrigerator.
- Riding on a motorcycle in “Mission: Impossible 2,” Tom Cruise has a near-collision with an Avis truck.
- In “Me, Myself & Irene,” Jim Carrey goes ballistic when he loses money in a Coca-Cola machine — twice.
- In “The Perfect Storm,” it’s clearly established that sea captain George Clooney has been on a losing streak. And on his desk sits a big bottle of Pepsi.
TAKE A BIG GULP FOR THIS PLUG
- In “Final Destination,” Clear Rivers (Ali Larter) tells of her late father going into a 7-11, where “a guy blew his head off.”
THE RICH ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU AND ME
- In “Charlie’s Angels,” hungry billionaire Sam Rockwell asks Kelly Lynch, “So, what’re we doing, House of Pancakes or Sizzler?”
- In the trailers for “What Lies Beneath,” Michelle Pfeiffer is shown, in closeup, photographing a ghost with her Nikon camera.
- In the trailers for “Little Nicky,” Lucifer’s son (Adam Sandler) and a talking dog extol the benefits of Popeye’s chicken.