Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Boring

Did you see Forest Gump? If you did, there's almost no reason to see the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Granted, Benjamin is ever so slightly racier and he seems to avoid stumbling into Watergate. But, then again, Benjamin isn't retarded. He's got a strange disease where he progresses from old age to childhood in his physical body, but mentally develops as a normal human does. So, he is born an old man with arthritis and the helplessness of a baby, spends his 70s learning the read and be a boy, and at the end of his life, suffers from dementia, but looks about 2 years old. Like Gump, though, Benjamin is a man of few words, a passive observer of life, swept up in the tide of what goes on around him. Both stories share the same nostalgic view of the American century, the same folksy approach to race relations in America (as if there were never any problems between blacks and whites), the same narrated voice-over humor, and the same life is like a box of chocolates message.

Did I mention it's also 3 hours long? and boring?

While moments of the film are genuinely charming, such as the old-style film "strips" inserted into the picture to tell stories, other moments are downright awful. In particular, the story of Benjamin Button is framed by a girl who reads to her dying mother from Benjamin's diary during the events of Hurricaine Katrina. This story line does nothing for the narrative except ruin whatever momentum Benjamin's life has gained.

Worse, this film is a tear jerker of the most shameless kind, swelling the music to highlight every death and disappointment that shakes Benjamin's eventful life. The characters reflect -- no, they do not reflect... they make trite statements about the passage of time and the importance of savoring the moment.

Overall, this one is a big loser that has no business sitting beside films such as Slumdog Millionaire and the Reader in the march to the Oscars.

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