I appreciate ambitious films. Sweeping epics with bulging plots are extremely challenging to make and can be among the most fulfilling to watch, when done well. But this attempt to bring David Mitchell's novel to the screen sadly fails.
The plot is ridiculously complicated, with six separate stories, set in very different time periods, lightly woven together. There's the 19th century slave trader who become deathly ill on his return voyage to America, the futuristic clone in Korea created to be a fast-food worker, the 1970s investigative reporter sleuthing at a nuclear plant, and it goes on and on. Any one of these could have made for an interesting movie. But all six of them make for a headache.
The trio of directors (never a good sign when a movie has more than one director) jump back and forth between the stories, which adds to the confusion. My wife and I often had to pause in order to remind each other of which plot line we were then resuming.
Most of the talented cast (led by Tom Hanks and Halle Berry) play multiple roles in several of the storylines, which in theory is a clever idea to demonstrate how the characters' lives are interlaced through the centuries. In reality, it only serves to add more confusion by muddling the narrative.
And it's so very long, which will leave you questioning the time investment, given the unfulfilling payoff. The blood, sex and convoluted storyline make this most appropriate for teens 15 years and older. (R: Violence, sex and language). 2 hours and 52 minutes.
Ratings (out of 4 stars):
Overall: 2 stars
Teens: 2½ stars
Adults: 2 stars
Seniors: 1½ stars
Should you watch it? No -- sprawling adventure never gels.
Tina Fey is ridiculously funny, both as a writer and an actress. Her television work ranks her in the comedic pantheon next to Lucille Ball. And like Lucy, Tina seems to struggle on the big screen.
Maybe it was because Fey didn't write, produce or direct this stiff comedy that it doesn't even remotely work. Fey stars as an uptight college admissions officer at Princeton. After being dumped by her boyfriend, Fey finds herself in a strange relationship with an alternative high school principal (Paul Rudd) who is trying to help one of his students get admitted to Princeton.
The world of collegiate admissions has not been overfished by Hollywood, so the concept had promise. But that promise never came through, just like my own acceptance to Bowdoin.
Fey's character is shallow and mildly annoying, while Rudd's seemed perpetually stoned. To fill this void, the filmmakers gave us laughs; two of them, to be precise. The rest of the film was just awkward. Despite this, I don't worry about Fey. One or even four bad movies doesn't diminish her talents or continued potential.
A little too risqué for kids younger than 11. (PG-13: Language and sex). 1 hour and 47 minutes.
Ratings (out of 4 stars):
Overall: 1½ stars
Teens: 2 stars
Adults: 1½ stars
Seniors: 2 stars
Should you watch it? No -- a failure of a comedy.
J.B. Alderman lives in Piedmont and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.