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January 9, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | January 9, 2009 |

Before we let go of 2008 once and for all (seriously, this is the last end of year list),the Missus and I thought we’d throw in one for the road. A bonus list to chew on for a couple of hours before the movies of 2009 begin (Bride Wars. Ugh. Motherfuck. When they threw me out of 2008, I didn’t realize the landing would be that hard). We ran a year-end list a couple of years ago about the most overrated films of that year, but I tried to come up with a cutesy title or something and killed it, just like I did that bunny I crushed to death with my love (oh, George). This year, I’m doing it a little more straightforward — nice and self-explanatory. And here they are: The five most overrated films of 2008.

5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: If Benjamin Button were a t-shirt, it would be “I’m with stupid.”

This movie treats its audience as though its viewers are toddlers. Every idea that is even potentially thought-provoking is spelled out in such minute, excruciating detail that by the time the movie is done presenting the concept — or, in the case of hurricane Katrina, uselessly exploiting it — you’ve moved on to wondering how much gas you have left in your car and whether, if you ran out of the theater immediately, you could make it to the nearest cliff.

4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: If Benjamin Button were a car, it would be a Pontiac Bonnevile. WIth really fancy rims.

There is no doubt that this movie cost some serious cash ($150 million production budget, and that’s excluding marketing). Between Brad Pitt’s crazy rubber oldface, all the Oscar bait running around, and the countless carefully cultivated muted shots of people doing the boringest of historically ‘significant’ acts, it’s clear that no expense was spared. They even managed to bring Julia Ormond back from the dead (yeah, we spent 20 minutes going - who IS that??) But despite all the fancy lighting and top-shelf talent, there’s nothing under the hood. This story is only interesting as a conceit. You heard he ages backwards? You pretty much know all there is to know. Wow! I just saved you ten bucks, three hours and a brain contusion.

3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: If Benjamin Button were a different movie, it would be Forrest Gump.

Yeah, so this is arguably a cheap shot, since the same dude (Eric Roth) wrote both movies. But really, that’s no excuse. Some of us liked Forrest Gump (Dustin) and some of us thought it was embarrassingly superficial pablum (Mrs.). But either way, you can’t just use the same character and worldview in all your work and expect nobody to notice. Did Dickens follow Oliver Twist with the story of another hapless yet lovable orphan boy making his way through the tangled streets of London? No! Did J.R.R. Tolkien just rehash his overly complicated tales of pseudo-medieval quests over and over again? (Oh…wait). Well, does Steven Spielberg completely obsessed with Aliens?? Yes, but where I’m from, we call them Senor Macho Solo.

2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: If Benjamin Button were sex, it would be lousy. It would go on forever. And though you might cry at the end, there would never be a climax.

Some critics have argued that the first two hours and 45 minutes of this movie — the prolonged, excessive backstory — were necessary in order to extract those precious moviegoer tears. So then the true measure of quality is whether a film manipulates you into weeping in the end? That’s ridiculous. It’s like telling a three hour zinger. Fincher could’ve squeezed a lot more tears out of his audience if he’d not first bored them into apathy . Many of the multiple storylines — some of which drifted aimlessly toward dead ends (the Tilda Swinton subplot, for instance) — seemed to exist solely to fit into the final, 90 second narration. It’s as though they began with a punchline and kept working backwards until they rambled themselves into the setup.The problem was, the joke made no sense. The only way it could’ve possibly worked was if, in the last 30 seconds, infant Brad Pitt had leapt up and exclaimed, “The Aristrocrats!” At least then we’d have appreciated the absurdity.

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: If Benjamin Button were a food, it would be served at the Cheesecake factory. It’s fattening. It’s overseasoned yet still bland. It’s full of empty calories, there are too many ingredients, and it all seems designed not to satisfy you, but to satiate you.

Great director, cool cast, strong lead, compelling idea and yet, and in the end, you’ll wish you’d stayed home and had a nice salad.

Dustin Rowles & Mrs. Pajiba-hyphenate

Lists | January 9, 2009 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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