CAPTION: How long will it be before Dev Patel and Freida Pinto bust out a Bollywood-style dance number?
Not Even Bizarrely Plausible, 8 December 2008
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
A young call center worker from Mumbai with a rough-and-tumble past named Jamal (a likable Dev Patel) becomes a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” in the hopes that his true love (the beautiful Freida Pinto) will see him on TV and come back to him for good. Much of Slumdog Millionaire is done in flashbacks as the audience learns the personal story behind each of the questions. For some strange reason the filmmakers want us to think a person like Jamal wouldn’t normally know the answers to these random trivia questions, but he does because of his unique life story, see? Well, it’s a mildly interesting central conceit that quickly falls apart. At one point, a policeman questioning Jamal remarks that his story is “bizarrely plausible.” I wish I could say I felt the same.
It seems to be a trend this year for movies to contain wildly shifting tones. This is the type of film that thinks it’s endearing and cute when a little Indian boy is given no choice but to dive into a pit of raw sewage to get a chance to meet a movie star, and then tries to be gritty and deadly serious when a man takes out an orphan’s eyes with a spoon so the kid will make more money on the street as a blind urchin. Combining elements of Oliver Twist, Romeo and Juliet and City of God, Danny Boyle and his co-director Loveleen Tandan create a flimsy mosaic of convention and post-modern pastiche. With its sometimes fascinating look at Mumbai and its strange juxtaposition of modernity and immense wealth run amok with the biggest slums on earth, Slumdog Millionaire is not without some intense and keenly interesting vignettes. However, the paper-thin script full of lazy characterizations and arbitrary moments leads to a painfully predictable denouement with a silly message about Destiny.
Boyle is a director whose style has run out of steam. All of his trademarks are here: the shoddy editing; the shaky, grainy digital photography; the hyper-bright lighting that washes out most colors and makes whites and yellows blinding. Why is it I always feel like I’m getting an eye exam when I sit through his films? It left me with a headache that wasn’t helped by the loud soundtrack. Any compelling moment, like the train ride that ends at the Taj Mahal or the early chase scene through the slums of Mumbai, I credit to Boyle’s co-director Tandan.
Slumdog Millionaire is an energetic film I desperately wanted to like. Had it a sharper focus and harder edge that more thoroughly explored just one of the millions of enthralling stories that exist in cities like Mumbai, it could’ve been a rousing success. Instead, with its slapdash enthusiasm that feebly tries to thread some meaning into the barely plausible tale, I’m left thinking that Mumbai deserves a far better film.
Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database: