Denzel Washington drinks a lot in his latest film about a highly functional alcoholic who miraculously lands a plane while drunk. And boy does Budweiser wish he'd picked a different beer.
It's a funny story really. Paramount Pictures makes this movie Flight about a drunk pilot who downs a decent number of vodka sodas and beers before his plane starts falling apart at 30,000 feet. (That part's not that funny, especially the drunk pilot bit.) But then he somehow manages to flip the plane over in midair, knock the steeple off a church -- is it symbolic?? -- and land the plane somewhat safely on the ground, still drunk. (Okay, the drinking thing still isn't that funny.) All the while, the film's producers decided to show Denzel drinking a Bud in the cockpit. Elsewhere in the film, he prefers Stolichnaya vodka, which is distributed by Budweiser's parent company Anheuser-Bush. That's funny, because if you're a liquor company, the last thing you want is for a major Hollywood production company to feature your product in the hands of a drunk airline pilot, regardless of his hero status.
Indeed, Anheuser-Busch was not pleased about the involuntary product placement. On Monday, the company announced that it had asked Paramount Pictures to remove the Budweiser logo from all future releases of Flight. "We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving," wrote Rob McCarthy, vice president of Budweiser, in a statement to the Associated Press. "We have asked the studio to obscure the Budweiser trademark in current digital copies of the movie and on all subsequent adaptations of the film, including DVD, On Demand, streaming and additional prints not yet distributed to theaters."
The bad news for Budweiser and Anheuser-Busch as a whole is that, beyond complaining about it, there's really nothing they can do about the film. Flight is finished, and it's in theaters. The movie even grossed $25 million last weekend and with good reason. The trailer looks awesome! As for the Budweiser cameos, trademark law "don't exist to give companies the right to control and censor movies and TV shows that might happen to include real-world items," Daniel Nazer from Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project told the AP. Anheuser-Busch could make a big huge deal out of the situation, but that would probably do more harm than good.
As for the rest of us, we're welcome to watch Denzel Washington take the fable of Sully's Miracle on the Hudson and make it real with a little bit of name brand booze. Does that make seem Budweiser really evil? Nah. Budweiser did that themselves years ago.