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"My Kid Could Paint That"

Directed by Amir Bar-Lev.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  9/12/07


Man, I wanted this to be better; I mean, as it is, "My Kid Could Paint That"--a documentary that tracks the international art controversy that surfaced when a four-year-old from Binghamton, NY was producing well-reviewed, high-priced modernist abstract paintings that may or may not have been polished by her parents--is reasonably entertaining.  But, as a Sundance participant earlier this year, the hype surrounding the film was bigger than its britches in my humble opinion.

Some of this is tied to the fact that there isn't much discovery here; if you know me at all, I rarely if ever read the news or have a feel for the pulse of popular culture, and even I remember the news surrounding this issue.  Could a kid really be that good of a painter?  Doesn't all modern splotch-style painting suck?  Why would anyone pay $15,000 for a piece of art that not only looks like it was painted by a non-artist, but also WAS painted by a normal child?  Hell, there was even a "60 Minutes" edition dedicated to this very child and very issue, so one of my favorite things about documentaries--discovery of something that was right there before my eyes that I never noticed before--is out the window.

But, the film takes a curious route--the film was produced and directed by Amir Bar-Lev, a man who basically documented the family before, during, and after their famous run with the art sales, the publicity, the scandal, and the events that happened in the weeks after the scandal when the family tries to restore its good name.  As such, he creates a certain degree of trust with his subjects (the child's mother even admits as much late in the film, begging for the filmmaker to believe her side of the story) but then openly questions whether or not the kid did all of the painting by herself.  This hurts the film more than it helps, because we already don't know who to believe and then we get a filmmaker who makes himself a somewhat noticeable part of his own story.  Oh, and we can never really surmise who did the work of the paintings, and the untrained, non-artist eye (I would guess this encompasses 75% of the viewing audience) is really left wondering how the styles differ since 1) they all feature a very Jackson Pollock-ish mess of colors and styles and 2) even when viewed side-by-side late in the film, almost all of the child's works look essentially the same.

So, there isn't the kind of mystery that might come from a movie like this; there is no real discovery of an issue since this story was quite large when it popped back in early 2005.  But, while you are in the theater, "My Kid Could Paint That" isn't bad, it just isn't the kind of whopper you are thinking you will get from something that was a major hit at Sundance.  Damn hype machine!!

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09