I have had horrendous problems with the inefficiency of UPS. (Reel Life suffers frequently, dear readers, but usually doesn’t like to burden you with the details.) And after seeing Tom Hanks’ diligence in delivering Federal Express packages in “Cast Away,” our resolve was firm on which delivery service to use forever.
But then in “Tomb Raider,” the entire plot is set in motion when Lara Croft receives a letter delivered by UPS and, against our will, we found ourselves thinking benevolently toward that company.
This is the power of product placement.
Sometimes product placement is restrained, such as the Everlast logo that appears on the boxing ring ropes, trunks, headgear and boxing gloves in numerous “Ali” scenes — easily visible, but hardly the focus of the scene. Sometimes it’s less than subtle: It’s no exaggeration to say the Starbucks logo gets more screen time in “I Am Sam” than Mary Steenburgen.
Sometimes execs at a company pay big bucks to have their product shown in a film. Sometimes no money changes hands; the company simply gives permission.
Either way, it’s rare for a product to show up on screen without the blessing of the company. So, with that in mind, here are the annual salutes to the oddest use of product placement in the films of the past year.
DON’T GO NEAR THE WATER
In “The Deep End,” Grandpa (Peter Donat) has a heart attack while struggling to carry Sparkletts water bottles into the house.
COLD HAIR, WARM HEART
In “Hannibal,” Lecter traps Clarice by shutting her hair in the door of a Frigidaire.
DRINKS THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY
In “Pearl Harbor,” Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett donate blood, which is drained into empty Coca-Cola bottles. However, Hartnett later gets ready to bomb Tokyo by drinking a Pepsi.
FATAL GLASS OF BEER
In “Rush Hour 2,” villain John Lone falls to his death from a Vegas high-rise and smashes into a taxicab bearing a huge Budweiser sign.
In “The Shipping News,” Kevin Spacey’s slutty, nothing-but-trouble obsession Cate Blanchett drinks Miller.
In “Town & Country,” while all the other members of the household (son, daughter, housekeeper) are enjoying latenight sex with their respective partners, Warren Beatty sits down for a bowl of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies.
WHEN GINGKO BILOBA DOESN’T WORK
In “Memento,” Guy Pearce is unable to form new memories, so he relies on notes that he writes on the back of Polaroids. He also shaves a patch on his leg with Brut shaving cream.
DUDE, OU EST MON CAR?
In “With a Friend Like Harry…” the audience realizes Harry is a little psycho when he impulsively stops at a Mitsubishi dealership and buys an SUV for his new pal.
H’WOOD WATER SPORTS
In “Ocean’s Eleven,” professional gambler Brad Pitt teaches poker to a bunch of lunkheads, all of whom are drinking Ramlosa.
THE CANDY MAN CAN
In “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” the virginal Hedwig/Hansel is seduced by an American G.I. offering Gummy Bears. The G.I. also has Milky Ways, Necco Wafers and Tootsie Rolls.
In “The Fast and the Furious,” drag racers line the street late at night, blocking off traffic to free the stretch of road. The only person to complain is a Pizza Hut delivery man.
THE ICE CREAM MAN COMETH
In “Someone Like You,” Ashley Judd eats Ben & Jerry’s ice cream out of the container while her sister and brother-in-law argue about fertility treatments. Later, Hugh Jackman says he knew his relationship was over when his girlfriend came home from dinner and ate Haagen-Dazs out of the container.
In “Monkeybone,” Bridget Fonda and her girlfriend eat Haagen-Dazs out of the container.
LET’S GO OUT TO THE LOBBY, NOW!
In “Ghost World,” Thora Birch proudly wears a Pacific Theaters uniform in her job at the concessions stand; when a customer orders a medium 7-Up, she reminds him that for 25¢ more, he could have a large.