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.