15 January 2009


This bumbling feature barely qualifies to be called a "film".  It is an animated tale about lizard-like people whose two races (one with wings and one without) have declared war on one another.  It's kinda like Pocahontas & John Smith meets Star Wars, with a little Lord of the Rings mythology mixed in.  (And if you are going to yank from Star Wars, why do you include Jar-Jar Binks?) But for all its liberal borrowing (some might say stealing) it shows none of the heart, depth or even interest of any of these classic stories.  The plot is Saran Wrap -- transparent and disposable -- but less reliable.   It would seem that since there was no effort spent on dialogue or character development, someone would have had time to notice the giant holes.
Perhaps it was due to the several years (I've heard anywhere between 6-15) in production but the animation is well behind the times, worse than films made 10 or 15 years ago.  It makes Betty Boop cartoons look ground-breaking.  It would be barely be a passable video game. If only the animators had opted for hand drawing style featured in the final credits.
There are two things that make Delgo of note, however.  One - how they ever managed to get such a long list of notable voice actors is a miracle.  The cast includes Freddie Prinze, Jr., Jennifer Love Hewitt, Anne Bancroft, Chris Kattan, Val Kilmer, Malcolm McDowell, Louis Gossett, Jr., Michael Clarke Duncan, Eric Idle, Kelly Ripa, and Burt Reynolds. I wonder how many of them even got the entire script, or saw a frame of the finished animation.  
Secondly, Delgo has the distinction of being the worst-performing wide release ever.  Opening in 2160 screens, is barely broke half a million dollars.  Since the next-worst opening record was $2 mil, they should have this record in the bag for a long, long time.

02 January 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

If you've read the classic short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, be warned.  The wit and charm (and the major plot points) are missing from this melodramatic adaptation.  The story was inspired by Mark Twain's comment that youth is wasted on the young.  Fitzgerald took the idea and ran with it, and the film shares the same central idea.  A baby is born as an old man, then grows younger as time passes, until dying as a baby.  
The film explores the idea that the certain advantages of having the wisdom of age in your youthful years are far outweighed by disadvantage of never being headed the same direction as those you love.  A somber Brad Pitt plays the mysterious Benjamin Button.  He trips and stumbles through hardships, outlined by major historic events, like a Forrest Gump tag-along, if more effectively.  Crossing his path is the beautiful (as always) Cate Blanchett, a snobbish, vapid ballet dancer whose siren red hair awkwardly harkens back to Moira Shearer's The Red Shoes.  The two attempt, in fits and starts, to form a relationship despite their different lives.  
The film uses small details fairly well, like the evolution of the retirement home where Button grows up and the ballet revue of Carousel.  But where it matters, it doesn't quite rise to the occasion.  Pitt and Blanchett show some sparks of natural chemistry at times, but it is inconsistent.  Pitt's character is flat, and nearly opaque.  We are given little to go on in terms of his feelings, or the knowledge and experience he is gaining.  Blanchett's character is so selfish through most of the film that it is hard to imagine Button being so head over heels.  Mostly, it seems impossible that their relationship would have taken the arc it did -- if we all want to find the love of our lives, how could we possibly let it go when we do?  There is little to redeem their selfish actions.
The minor helps, like the senile man who likes to tell stories about getting hit by lightning, the nod of the scars of WWI's need for a useable past, and the sly appearance of Tilda Swinton, attempt to level out this overall heavy-handed film -- all the more disappointing because of the enormous potential.