December 8, 2008

Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Over Thanksgiving weekend, we went with Aaron to see ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ the new film from Danny Boyle (of ‘Trainspotting’) and the up-and-coming Indie That Could for Oscar season (Think: 'Juno,' 'Sideways,' 'Little Miss Sunshine.').

The story is a fairy tale about a poor kid - in love his whole life with one girl - who magically wins a million dollars, finds her and lives happily ever after. The problem with the movie is that the Fairy Tale is padded with unnecessary, and jarringly unsubstantial scenes, that drag it down. Switching between the filming of a game show, watching the game show, a police station, and flashbacks, there’s way too much standing in the way. But the bigger problem is that the movie can’t decide if it wants to be gritty, or not, so it just winds feeling uneven.

The movie starts out with an Indian kid being tortured in an abandoned building. A man walks menacingly in, and looks at this kid, hanging from the ceiling, and begins connecting electrical wires to his toes. Intense, right?

Well – as it turns out, not so much. As it happens, the kid, Jamal, is a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, one question away from winning it all, and because he’s the poorest of the poor, must be cheating. But, he has a reason for knowing all the answers he’s given – and that’s because they all relate to his life, his relationship with his brother, and his love for a girl.

The menacing guy with the wires and penchant for torture – he’s actually a cop, and a good guy at that, who believes Jamal pretty easily. So they start going through the tape. This is where it starts feeling forced: You watch the game show on tape, hear the question, go into a flashback, watch the reason unfold on screen, see Jamal answer. The audience should have been trusted to connect the dots on their own.

There’s a good story underneath it all, it just gets overwhelmed by extra stuff. And it’s a pretty movie – with the kind of vibrant colors and sharp contrasts that you’d expect from a film about India. The actor who played Jamal, and the child actors were really very good. And, best of all, the credits run over a classic Bollywood-style cast dance number. Enjoyable enough, it just didn’t get quite there. 7 Twix bars!