Cayman Islands Film Is Just Fine, but No One Will See It

Exercise in Branded Entertainment Plays It too Straight

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Who has the better gig, do you suppose: film critic or ad critic?

Wrong. We've done both, and ad criticism wins hands down. For one thing, the success/failure ratio is vastly better in advertising (about one in three) than in movies (about one in 20, we'd reckon). Furthermore, while it is surely no fun to watch, say, a Ford commercial, that agony is fleeting. Thirty seconds and it's over. "88 Minutes" runs for 107 minutes.

Title: Cayman Went
Marketer: Cayman Islands
Agency: Chowder
In the branded film "Cayman Went," there are ample opportunities to bludgeon home the Caribbean Paradise message, but director Bobby Sheehan resists.
Furtherfurthermore, as a movie critic, you don't have the benefit enjoyed by the ordinary moviegoer of filtering out the titles you aren't likely to enjoy. You've got to sit through everything, which is excruciating and cruel (especially if the post-1993 Al Pacino is in it. The difference between "Righteous Kill" and waterboarding is that terrorism suspects at least get to wear a hood).

But this week AdReview can't be too smug, because circumstances have conspired to place us right back where we were 30 years ago, when we filed our review of "The Last Married Couple in America" and begged for reassignment on the grounds of life being too short.

The movie we screened is titled "Cayman Went," a dramedy about an action-adventure TV star who finds himself reluctantly dispatched to the Cayman Island called Brac -- on behalf of an evil tycoon -- in a desperate attempt to salvage his flagging career. The errand leads the studly but shallow actor (played convincingly by Michael Lombardi) to discover what is really important: the environment, small children, love and a totally ripped upper body.

More detail to follow. The reason this has fallen into AdReview's purview is that the movie was created by branded-content house Chowder explicitly as a promotional vehicle for the Cayman Islands, per the company's mission: "to erase the line between advertising and entertainment." Interesting exercise.

We are by and large dubious, to say the least, about branded content -- because the advertising part tends to be highlighted in yellow and what gets erased is entertainment. Much has been written about the audience flight from network TV. Cable and the internet get the blame, but AdReview believes some percentage of the refugees are actually fleeing the unwatchable program-length commercials. Likewise, we've all also experienced Hollywood movies so heavy-handedly infused with product plugs as to suspend suspension of disbelief.

Mercifully, no such obnoxiousness takes place in "Cayman Went." From the gorgeous underwater title sequence on, there are ample opportunities to bludgeon home the Caribbean Paradise message, but director Bobby Sheehan resists. The beauty shots of clear blue water, tropical flora and fauna and pastel-painted bungalows -- each flowing logically from the narrative -- speak for themselves. It's also impossible to tell that this is an $800,000, straight-to-DVD affair (basically, but for a three-screen, three-city theatrical blip). The dialogue is believable, and intermittently witty. The acting is fine, especially Jeffrey DeMunn as a holdout landowner. The leads aren't terrible. In all, it looks like a $4 million straight-to-DVD film.

Which, alas, is the problem. As a commercial for an unspoiled vacation paradise, this movie is just fine. But nobody's going to see the commercial. The movie isn't horrible, but it also is not good. The central plot element is so preposterous that it could only make sense in an over-the-top Will Ferrell sort of comedy. But this flick is played mainly straight. It is very not funny, and every single thing that happens is predictable 20 minutes in advance. So ... cult Netflix classic? We think not -- which is sad, because this project was seven years in the making.

"Cayman Went." A title, a pun and a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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