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"Slumdog Millionaire"

Directed by Danny Boyle.
Written by Simon Beaufoy.
Starring Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Irfan Khan and Frieda Pinto.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  10/23/08


For nearly its entire run, "Slumdog Millionaire"--the new film from Danny Boyle, who made "Trainspotting", "28 Days Later" and "Sunshine"--is fun, otherworldly entertainment for essentially the whole family.  Sure, its ending is, as my friend Saule put it, "too Indian", but "Slumdog Millionaire" still keeps you happy through about 90% of the running time.

That's because Boyle gives us a fresh look on same old/same old:  two brothers are heading in opposite directions, tied together by a girl they both love.  The twist is that this is India, and one of the brothers, Jamal (played as an adult by Dev Patel), is being tortured in a local police station because he has been suspected of cheating on the nation's biggest game show, British import "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"  Yes, it's the same version we jacked from the Brits, except when we meet him, Jamal has been answering a number of difficult questions on a show where, previously, no one has even gotten past the halfway point to winning the "big prize", a whopping 20 million rupees.  Let's flash back to when Jamal and his brother Samir were just small children; they are always fighting, always getting in trouble, and after their mother is brutally killed in an attack on the boys' slum, they run all over India living from stolen rupee to stolen rupee.  Eventually, they meet another homeless girl named Latika, and the self-made "Three Musketeers" go everywhere in search of a normal existence.

Like Boyle's other films, even the not-so-good "The Beach", "Slumdog Millionaire" is a very lively experience over its two-hour run...the soundtrack is a mix of truly everything (international pop, traditional Indian themes, that wacko lounge track "Paper Planes" by M.I.A., even what sounded like Mumbai-infused hip-hop) and might be the film's best asset.  If you leave this film and say something like "Man, that soundtrack really sucked", I'll know that you know nothing about music.  The cinematography is great and shows a side of India off the beaten path, which I loved, and even though you can tell some of these actors are acting, I didn't mind since many of the film's scenes are played for laughs.

The film is a good mix of comedy and drama for a while, but things turn dark late and they turn very...well, movie.  Things happen that just irritated me because they were so scripted, so perfectly poetic, and the ending is too storybook given how the film's first 110 minutes play out.  Plus, we even get a Bollywood dance number at the end to rub in the Indian-ness of this product.  It's almost as if Danny Boyle made the film's first 110 minutes, and then let a Bollywood musical director finish it, which leaves you with a strange taste in your mouth.

Otherwise, "Slumdog Millionaire" is good stuff, even if it is far from perfect.  Catch it in theaters so you can enjoy the thing with others, but this will make a great night on the couch too.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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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