If you loathe Russell Brand, then it’s hardly rocket science that you should avoid The Emperor’s New Clothes, a doco in the vein of Michael Moore that sees him take on the social inequities of free market capitalism and barely regulated finance. Others may be pleasantly surprised that his polemical tendencies are restrained in a pic that not only outlines the morally bankrupt economic policies of the UK (and lamely parroted in our country), but shows his knack for relating to the man in the street.
How much of this is Brand’s doing, as opposed to director Michael Winterbottom, is good speculative fodder, but doesn’t detract from the finished product. The film serves as a primer to the wholescale theft taking place throughout Western economies by ruling elites. Yes, as Brand acknowledges in his introduction – one of many short, sharp addresses down the camera – you already know most of this stuff, but not the scale of it.
Since the enormity is difficult to comprehend, and the forces at work seemingly so powerful, The Emperor’s New Clothes does well to focus on ordinary people – how they are impacted, and what they are doing to effect change. And the pairing of Brand and Winterbottom also improves on Michael Moore-esque public stunts, since Brand is equally whip-smart, but eminently more likeable when interacting with the low-level security and PR flacks employed to deal with him in the absence of any actual management electing to front.
What does the film accomplish though? It isn’t as incendiary as it seems to want to be. As I’ve just mentioned, there’s no significant interaction between Brand and his ideological opponents. And there’s no clear solution to the problems outlined. Perhaps this will provoke greater understanding for a new young audience, but I suspect The Emperor’s New Clothes will largely preach to the converted bourgeoisie.
‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ movie times