Ingluourouious Basturds, Or However It’s Spelled

The misspelling irks me, can I say that? I know. I’m picky. It’s okay.

I won’t spoil the movie, here — not a big fan of movies that do that.

So, let me encapsulate some thoughts, real quick-like.

Overall, it has a ton of compelling elements. But those elements fail to come together, and the end result is a big, bloated, clumsy mess of a movie. You ever read a dish on a menu, and your eyes glance over all the ingredients in the dish you’re about to order, and you think, “Whoo-ee, that sounds scrum-diddly-icious?”

And then the plate comes to the table, you take a bite, and…

Ennnnh? Not only isn’t it as good as it sounded, but it’s like the chef got lazy? Didn’t really bring the whole soup together? Maybe he fell asleep in the stock pot or something?

That’s this. Tarantino doesn’t bring a proper dish to the table. It’s sloppy.

The film itself is home to two different movies, and these two different movies stumble drunkenly toward one another, and commingle at the end in little more than a messy tongue kiss before once more parting ways. One film is about the so-called “inglourious basterds” (englorius basstards?) engaging in all their Nazi-killing bidness. The other more compelling film is about an escaped Jewish girl who runs a cinema in the middle of Paris under an assumed identity.

The Basterds themselves are an almost meaningless element in the narrative. They are as the previews suggest — Nazi-killers. It gets no more complex than that. We don’t really find out why non-Jew Aldo Raines is running this crew. Don’t really find out what’s up with what’s probably a noose-scar around his neck. We don’t know what’s up with the Nazi-killing Nazi, Stiglitz. Worse, a handful of the actual Basterds themselves simply… disappear toward the latter third of the film. Poof. Gone. (Am I weird in that I wanted Samm Levine to have… maybe an actual spoken line of dialogue?)

And yet, the film still clocks in at almost three hours. For all that it appears to have cut out (the previews are home to scenes that the film does not seem to possess), it still keeps in lots of draggy moments that’ll have you checking your watch.

It’s not that it’s a bad movie. Again, it has good stuff. Christopher Waltz as Hans Landa is priceless. The character, too, is priceless, as a Nazi you hate to love, and love to hate in equal measure. Brad Pitt turns in half of a good performance — the other half falls to a lazy, phoned-in schtick as a Tennessee hillbilly. Some of the writing is top notch. Some of the writing is bulging with the fumes of self-indulgence. Melanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus gets a big thumbs-up, while Eli Roth gets a big thumbs-down.

Sometimes it’s sharp, crisp, funny, tense. Other times it lumbers, it’s comical when it shouldn’t be, and it plays goofy with history.

So. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just disappointing and messy, like an overflowing diaper.

In other movie stuffs:

  • James Cameron’s Avatar trailer earns a big shrug from me. I mean, it’s Cameron, so it’ll probably be good. It looks pretty. But I am, as yet, not wowed by his supposed revolution in effects. The trailer is appropriately cool, but that’s about it. I hear the 3D effects are mind-blowing, though, so I still have hopes. Despite my lack of enthusiasm, I have a feeling it’ll still get me in the end.
  • I’m surprised to find that I really am excited about The Wolfman, though. Not sure what it is about it, but it does something for me — in the trailer, at least.
  • You want to see a real revolution in special effects, check out the $30-million-but-looks-like gold District 9. In fact, just go see that this weekend. Skip the Tarantino until it hits DVD with all its deleted scenes re-added and so you can see it in “full mess” mode. For now, go visit with the prawns of South Africa.
  • Reminder: I’m in LA next week. If you’re in LA, tell me, so I can see you. If you’re anywhere else, I’ll try to blog as the week goes on. I’ll surely tweet/twat/twit.

4 comments

  • Of course, I still HAD to see it. Your review wa spot-on. And – by really, really lowering my expectations – allowed me to enjoy the movie.
    Well, half of it.
    If QT had just ditched the Basterd, it would have been a damn fine movie. Oh, and also kept the basement tavern scene.
    p.s. I *hate* Eli Roth and all of his torture porn movies.

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