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Slumdog Millionaire (2008), Danny Boyle, D

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Thursday, January 22nd, 2009


I grumbled and groaned and then finally saw Juno last year and Little Miss Sunshine the year before. And when it was over I finally had to admit, yeah yeah, those movies were a little overrated, but I can see what the fuss is about. Slumdog Millionaire, I’m proud to say, is two hours of junk.

Tonally, it is all over the place. Is this a gritty Pixote-esque look at third world poverty? Or is it a magical realist fable? That’s the vibe you get from the gimmick of the story (and what the book is probably like) but it doesn’t come off that way. What we do get is a lot of flashy cinematography and musical montages from Danny Boyle. This works like gangbusters in Sunshine and Trainspotting, but basically ruins any emotion in this film. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’s closing credits score meant to usher in a triumphant montage, unironically? I don’t think I can get aboard this train.

And it is also really offensive to women. Is this gal just a prize, like the 20 million rupees? Is she just a five year old with a beautiful smile, or is she the abused mistress of a mafia kingpen? (And what was up with that whole mafia side-story? Was I supposed to know what was going on there? Or care?) All I know is that the woman’s story probably would have been a lot more interesting than seeing the clever way we can work Benjamin Franklin into the plot.

And what of our lead character? Yeah, we root for him to win because we like a winner, but he is just a blank slate who is chasing after an idealized woman (who, once rescued with the newfound game show money, is going to need a lot of therapy) for fairy-tale reasons instead of living anything resembling a real life. Boyle would rather not worry about that and instead crank up the Bengal-infused techno and show off his color saturated, under-cranked cityscapes.

If this movie just came and went I’d probably just say “not for me.” But since it will probably win the Academy Award, I will now lead a charge against its awfulness the likes of which you haven’t seen since I got all cranky against Crash.

(The scenes at the Taj Mahal were cool – but, again, in terms of tone, a jigsaw puzzle with the rest of the movie. Feh.)


  1. Well said. It’s hogwash. Made my worst of list:

    Comment by Jurgen — January 22, 2009 @ 10:03 am

  2. Doh! While I agree with much of what you say here–overly simplistic plot, idealized pretty face love interest, Bengali music video hyperactivity etc.– I DON’T think this little movie should inspire “Crash” worthy ire. That movie was a purposely manipulative racial pot-stirring piece of Hollywood TV writer agitprop. This movie just wants to tell a simple love story and win a dumb game show (your average poor person in any country’s ideal fairy tale). It’s agenda is pretty pedestrian but done in high exaggerated style. And the mafia bad guy in this was a complete cartoon, so I don’t think the lady in this will need much more than a day or two with the shrink. After that, she’s got a great modeling career ahead of her. Which, actually, will probably require a longer stint in therapy.

    You really liked “Sunshine” that much?

    Comment by burchkid — January 22, 2009 @ 11:05 am

  3. Crash DID suck..I cannot agree with you here though.

    Comment by e.nassar — January 26, 2009 @ 10:48 am

  4. Stop watching so much “Star Dreck” & rewatch & enjoy a delightful, original,
    little fantasy. By the way, he didn’t love her because she was beautiful, but
    because she was the only female constant in his life. The mafia guy “loved”
    her because she was beautiful.

    Comment by mom — January 27, 2009 @ 6:26 pm

  5. I was too angry to put it in words when I left the theatre- all I could do was half-threaten to kick the poster size triumphant review in the lobby of the artsy movie house (would have whole-threatened and possibly done it had Kerry not been there to steer me away from it.) This movie was a vile garbage heap for all the reasons you stated. I am relieved I no longer have to find the right words, because you did. Particularly the thing about women. Ugh. The only thing you forgot to mention is how dreadful the dancing was at the end. Couldn’t he have hired actual dancers? It says a lot that he doesn’t care.

    Comment by Leslie — February 12, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

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