Monday, January 26, 2009

Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Grade: C-

Slumdog Millionaire, the movie that has been winning critic and audience praise, sweeping awards shows and is off to the Oscars where it could be labeled as the best movie of 2008. I feel so alone. Am I the only one that didn’t find this movie all that impressive? Is the story of Jamal Malik, an unlikely winner of India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Jamal, his brother Samir, and fellow orphan Latika, manage to survive an almost absurd number of scrapes, the memory of each one coincidentally providing Jamal with answers to the game show questions. This movie was unbelievable, and I don’t mean that in a “this movie was so good I can’t believe it” way, I mean it in a “these coincidences are so ridiculous” sort of way.

To start the movie you see Jamal being interrogated by the police on suspicion of cheating on the game show because, as is said numerous times, how could a dog from the slums of Mumbai know the answers to the questions on a game show that doctors and lawyers can’t get as far as he has. Now, by interrogating, I mean torturing, they are beating him up, drowning him in a bucket of water and hooking a car battery to his toes. This is where it started to get weird already, they are torturing him and he doesn’t say anything but after electrocuting him they ask what does a slumdog know and he simply replies “the answers”. So do they do what these men look and sound like they’d do? Do they jolt him again? No. They kindly untie him, sit him in a chair in an office, no longer in the back room, and give him some water and let him explain. WHAT? Why are these officers suddenly so sympathetic? Either way now we begin the redundant formula the whole movie follows of showing their conversation, showing a clip from the show then showing his flashback that always manages to somehow, and usually quite oddly and unbelievably, give him the answer to the question. The sad thing is, and part of the reason I didn’t really care much for this movie, that within the first 10-15 minutes of the movie I knew exactly how the end was going to play out, and I was right.

Also, during these flashbacks there are numerous musical montages, this gets old after the second or third. Also, to add insult to injury, one of the musical montages is set to possibly the most annoying song of 2008, M.I.A’s Paper Planes. The sad thing is it wasn’t even the original M.I.A version, it sounded like they got an Indian woman to sing it and it sounded like she was randomly going from singing in Hindi to English in mid sentence.

The performances in this movie were completely forgettable. Dev Patel, who plays Jamal, seemed so plain and bland, never really showing any emotion and who always had a look on his face like even he can’t believe his own dumb luck. I felt no reason to really care for his character. Freida Pinto, Latika, was forgettable, granted she wasn’t on screen that much but when she was I just couldn’t get behind her performance, again she seemed a little flat. The only believable performance was Bollywood star Anil Kapoor who played the host of the game show.

Finally, the love story, which is supposed to be the center of the film, this was the most unbelievable part of the entire movie. Orphaned Jamal and Samir meet Latika when they are around 6 or 7 and allow Latika to join them, it seems, mostly out of pity. She travels with them for a little while before they lose her trying to escape a man using children to make money. Several years later Jamal manages to find her again and he and Samir save her from a prostitution ring, only for Samir to turn to a life of crime that night and Jamal looses Latika again. Then, again, years later, Jamal finds out that Latika is part of a harem belonging to a gangster his brother works for, he sees her briefly one day and promises to wait for her. Samir and some gangsters take her and they all disappear, this is when Jamal gets the idea to go on the game show in hopes that she will see him. I’m sorry, but not one bit of this seemed realistic to me. The only time Jamal ever spent any time with Latika, they were 6 or 7, I’m sorry but nobody meets their soul mate, or even knows what a soul mate is, at that age. I find it impossible that he would love her as much as he seems to think he does. I don’t feel like he even knows who she is. People change a lot under normal circumstances over that period of time, she experienced severe trauma over those years, there is no way that she is the same person that he met when he was 6. The whole love story was completely implausible.

Now, I’m not saying that this was a bad movie I’m just saying that it wasn’t that good and, in my opinion, absolutely does not warrant all the awards it’s being nominated for and wining. The movie, at times, did look very good and and had a fast tempo with some great music that was a great homage to Bollywood movies including, the best part of the movie, the dance sequence that played during the end credits. This movie was a very ambitious attempt by Danny Boyle but I feel he should stick to his strong suits and keep making Sci-Fi movies like Sunshine.

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