Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

September 1999

Product placement

I recently saw one of the world's worst movies. It had everything wrong with it except maybe the music (Miles Davis), photography (glorious color) and setting (fall on the Maryland shore except you never really saw a boat that I can remember.) The rest of it stunk. It was improbable and way too long especially since it was clear what the ending would be before it even started.

The coming attractions were a lot more interesting. Great plots! In the first one, this guy's wife is killed in an airplane crash, and so is this congresswoman's husband. It turns out they, the dead ones, were having an affair, which is what the congresswoman and the guy end up having to console themselves. In the other one this guy fakes his own death so it looks like his wife did it and she goes to jail. She leaves her kid and all the insurance money with her best friend. Of course, the best friend is in on the whole deal with the guy who is going to get his just deserts when the wife gets out of jail because she becomes convinced she can't be tried twice for killing the same guy. I hope I didn't spoil it for you.

So, anyway, this stink bomb of a movie with pretty settings and enjoyable music had something that reminded me of "E.T." Now "E.T." was a great movie even though you also knew from the gitgo that everyone was going to live happily ever after. It, too, had great, what you call, production values. And, E.T. was cute, you know, like Julia Roberts. But the things about this dumb movie that reminded me of that great movie were the paid commercial tie-ins. In the movie "E.T.," the character Elliott makes contact with the alien using Reeses Pieces. M? was the candy-lure of choice but that candy maker wouldn't cough up the appearance money so Reeses did and came away a huge winner. In this flick, USA Today plays the Reeses Pieces part. The guy is a USA Today columnist who writes misogamist stuff. He is accused of making up facts about this girl who leaves guys at the altar and is fired by his editor who, coincidentally, is his ex-wife. To redeem himself he goes to Maryland to write a magazine story about the girl's next wedding.

The best line of the whole movie comes when the girl hops a FedEx truck to get away from one of her weddings. Everyone's chasing the truck down the road until it's clear they are not going to catch it. So this one winded guy says, "I don't know where she's going but she'll be there by 10 o'clock tomorrow morning."

So, here's the question: Which company paid more for plot positioning or whatever it's called? USA Today gets the most exposure — the moviegoer is treated to several views of its logo as it appears in the paper and on signage in several scenes continuously throughout the movie. Further, two more representations are made: First, the paper fires writers who aren't strictly factual and second, everyone in Dinkyville, Md., (the equivalent of Everytown) not only reads USA Today but has it delivered.

It's not like the plot only works from a premise that only a columnist at a national daily could defame a hardware clerk. Certainly, a radio talk show guy could've or a Larry King or even a syndicated columnist like Mike Barnicle. My assumption is that USA Today paid the big bucks. FedEx is treated well, shows up near the end of the movie (when the audience is ready to accept anything to get out of the theater). However, the story and its only good laugh line depend on the outrageous assumption that people can hook rides on FedEx trucks.

On second thought, maybe The Wall Street Journal and UPS paid.