Cast Away: Francois Duhamel
Steve Daly
June 15, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Cast Away

Current Status
In Season
132 minutes
Wide Release Date
Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Chris Noth, Nick Searcy
Robert Zemeckis
20th Century Fox Film Corporation
20th Century Fox Film Corporation
William Broyles Jr.
We gave it a B+

What if Jerry Seinfeld did a ”Seinfeld” episode in which he smarmed through a job shilling for American Express?

Decide fast whether that’s Pirandellian or Orwellian, because the video tide just washed up Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks as a Federal Express efficiency expert named Chuck Noland who’s marooned on a Pacific island. Hanks’ main costar isn’t a conspicuously branded volleyball named Wilson, or even Helen Hunt as his lost love — it’s FedEx.

Yesterday’s message in a bottle? Not when you see the flick rendered in phosphorescent TV set dots, which make the purple and orange FedEx logo twinkle like a blinking pager you can’t shut off. Consider just one ludicrously logo besotted scene: Crash survivor Chuck is being flown home to Memphis. We see his feet on a FedEx floor mat. Got it — company plane. But wait, there’s also a FedEx cocktail napkin next to the window. And a FedEx placard by the cockpit. And finally, infuriatingly, look at those two supremely distracting coffee mugs in the background, marked ”Ex” and ”Fed.”

It’s true that nobody marries F/X wizardry with audiovisually literate storytelling better than director Robert Zemeckis. It’s also true that Hanks does wonderful, heart-tugging work here. But when it comes to tolerating movies that function in good part as cozy repositories of corporate branding — much as Hanks did for EW parent company AOL in ”You’ve Got Mail” — it’s time for audiences to draw a line in the sand. The video may be a B+, but as a de facto FedEx ad, it’s an F.

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