Thursday, April 2, 2009

Nobel Son

With Nobel Son, I was promised a darkly comic thriller with Alan Rickman and a "cool chase with a Mini Cooper." I was lied to. And my vengeance is swift. Don't rent this piece of shit. Not even to see Eliza Dushku's butt, or listen to Paul Oakenfold's entirely out of place score.
Alan Rickman is fine, of course- the man can do no wrong! He plays a philandering, self-absorbed professor who wins the Nobel Prize for Physics. And while he's going to pick it up- and the cool $2 million that comes with it- his son is kidnapped. But he doesn't believe it, since his son is a little attention whore, because Daddy is a self-absorbed philandering professor. Mom isn't much to write home about either; this is one dysfunctional family, but it's just a shade too normal for this to be a nice darkly comic thriller like let's say, Fargo.
Nobel Son tries really hard, and the actors are all quite enjoyable. The Son is a bit of a thanklessly whiny role, and when his kidnapper wants to chop his thumb off to send a message, we don't really much care. I have a thing about severed fingers, since I had to bandage my father's after a misadventure with a circular saw, but this didn't move me. And as for the thrilling plot, I kept falling asleep. It wanted to be one of those layered double-cross thrillers, but I couldn't believe the kidnapped kid was smart enough to pull it off, even if his Dad won the Nobel Prize. I found myself rooting for the kidnapper, whose history was interesting.
But the movie drags on for a contrived third act, when a brave screenwriter would have killed someone off or gotten darker. Also, some things stuck out. The kidnapper likes Mini Coopers; his ingenius plot to grab the ransom money and make off with it involves a remote-control Mini Cooper mall car spinning around while the police wonder how he did it, but the "chase" was pretty lame. I saw a better mall chase on "Top Gear" last week when a Corvette was chasing a Ford Fiesta. This one was boring in comparison, and worse yet, you had no emotional involvement in it. Bad writing. For shame. Later on more Minis show up, and he says he steals them from people at church. Shocking, but a lame explanation for some obvious product placement- and this is coming from a Mini owner.
This movie gets the IgNobel prize for lame thriller that's not daring enough to be as darkly comic as it should have been. It tries, with some hints at cannibalism and lines like "it is more cruel to eat the living than the dead,' which belong in a better screenplay, one that doesn't end with people who stole money on a tropical beach. That works in Office Space and Trading Places, but in a movie like this, I was hoping a poisonois spider would crawl out of someone's coconut drink and bite them on the lip. Looking back on director Randall Miller's career, it does feel like a "darkly comic thriller" directed by someone who came from Disney TV movies. He also directed Bottle Shock- which I haven't seen yet- and will avoid based on this experience. The only redeeming feature is Alan Rickman's oily prof, and there are many better films he's been in you could be seeing.

Rating: Stinky


Fletch said...

I unfortunately saw this in the theater, based mostly on the deep cast.

Yea, it sucked hard. It was nice to see Shawn Hatosy get a decent-sized role, but I couldn't even take the normally welcome Rickman here. And I have no idea (ok, some) why people love Dushku so much. Nice bod, but talk about a classic butterface.

Spot on about the Oakenfold soundtrack, too - it was beyond distracting.

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