January 22, 2009

"Slumdog Millioniare" needs fixing

"Slumdog Millionaire" is second in Oscar nominations with 10 to "Benjamin Button's" 13. Here's an excerpt from my review in the current American Conservative:

After sweeping the Golden Globe awards, “Slumdog Millionaire,” the plucky movie about an uneducated underdog from the slums of Bombay who wins 20 million rupees on the local version of the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, has become the Oscar race overdog.

Seven-year-old Jamal and his older brother Salim are orphaned in 1992 when Hindu nationalist mobs torch their Muslim slum in Bombay. (Or “Mumbai,” as the Shiv Sena politicians who fomented these pogroms renamed the city in 1996. Although trendy Westerners all use “Mumbai” now, no locals call their famous film industry “Mullywood.”)

... To make enough money to run off with his beloved, Jamal goes on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” There, as fate, karma, or kismet would have it, he finds he knows the answer to each trivia question because it had already come up at a memorably dramatic moment in his life. ...

The film contains, in theory, most of the elements of a crowd pleaser, but the actual product turns out to be less enjoyable to watch than a good episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. ...

Worse, the script is as on-the-nose as the dog comedy “Marley and Me.” Sadly, Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy didn’t trust their gimmick. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire has been a hit around the world because its slow pacing (the opposite of Jeopardy!) allows viewers to think along with the contestant as he talks out his thought processes. Thinking is fun.

“Crash” (an equally contrived but more interactive film) allowed viewers a half minute to rewind the plot in their heads and figure out for themselves the climactic conundrum of why nobody was killed when the angry Iranian shot the Mexican locksmith’s angelic daughter at point-blank range.

Sadly, “Slumdog Millionaire” doesn’t encourage any thinking back about earlier scenes. Instead, each quiz question is followed by a lengthy flashback ending with The Answer. For example, after “Who invented the revolver?” comes Jamal’s recollection that concludes with his gangster brother waving a gun around and shouting, “The man with the Colt .45 says shut up!”

Okay, we get it.

The funny thing is that "Slumdog Millionaire" could easily be re-edited to be a fun movie. Show the questions being asked rapid fire at the beginning, then flashback to Jamal's lifestory for an hour, then re-ask the questions and let moviegoers play the game alongside Jamal, searching through their memories of the last hour for the answers. It would also make the movie extremely memorable, since the way you remember something is to exercise your mind putting it in context.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

12 comments:

Danindc said...

Didn't see Slumdog but didn't they steal the plot from that Cheers episode where every question pertained to Cliff Clavin's life? He was way ahead but still bet it all on Final Jeopardy and lost- I think his answer in response to some question about the similarities of three famous people was:

Who are three people that have never been in my kitchen?

Takahata Yuichi said...

I thought this was a terrible movie.

Why is it even set in India? The cliched premise and execution could have taken place anywhere.

When I first heard of it I thought people would finally exploit the incredible unique and bizzare experience of modern Indian cities, where big business and shiny buildings sit near shantytown slums, where universities and research centers go on their daily routines while a few miles away illiterate children beg for money.

Instead the film gives us some cultureless, stale depiction of some "underworld" that could be located in about a hundred places around the world. What a waste of a setting.

Anonymous said...

"When I first heard of it I thought people would finally exploit the incredible unique and bizzare experience of modern Indian cities, where big business and shiny buildings sit near shantytown slums, where universities and research centers go on their daily routines while a few miles away illiterate children beg for money."

That description isn't really unique to India. You could just as well have been describing Sao Paulo.

Dave

Anonymous said...

It's based on a book called "Q & A" that takes place in India/

nsam said...

steve.. you got it right.. I think this was far less engrossing than it might have been..

Anonymous said...

"Why is it even set in India? The cliched premise and execution could have taken place anywhere."

So that American movie critics would be so busy drooling over the movie's exotic setting that they wouldn't notice how corny and clumsy the story is.

Daniel said...

In response to those complaining that the setting was stale and insignificant, I just wanted to point out newsy.com's coverage about the story and what some people had to say about the setting. The story should be pretty close to the front page.

Anonymous said...

I liked it, but I will have to plead guilty to being corny and sentimental.

Anonymous said...

I liked it too and found the exotic setting to be very appealing. I would agree that the time shifts did not add anything to the narrative flow and, in fact, worked against the overall tone of the movie.

SFG said...

Steve--that's the intellectual's approach to the movie. You want to rack your brain thinking, "Could this be the answer to the gun?" That requires too much thought. People want to connect emotionally to the movie, so the way they did it cuts out the higher brain functions.

Ronduck said...

That description isn't really unique to India. You could just as well have been describing Sao Paulo.

Dave


Or even here in parts of America.

PrestoPundit said...

The fraud occurred in English as well.

On my street a criminal broker bought and sold houses to himself -- and a huge markup, giving a kickback to the people who agreed to "buy" the house, and then default on the loan.

This brought 2 prostitutes into one house -- and folks who refuted to pay for garbage collection into another.

Calls the the FBI, to the Justice Department, and to the local police did nothing.

These criminals lived on my very short street for 2 years, spiking home values, then crashing them.

One of the houses is identical to my own.

The houses were trashed, inside and out.

Good job, Bushie.