Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gigantic (2008)

Movie quotes:
Mr. Weathersby (Edward Asner): Ah, whatever that boy wants, he’ll figure it out at some point. Now, you’ve got 15 years on him, both of you. You – you forget what you were like when you were his age?
James (Robert Stanton): I was finishing my residency when I was his age.
John (Ian Roberts): Yeah, I was in Russia buying oil tankers

Al (John Goodman): Here, take this.
Brian (Paul Dano): What’s this?
Al: A switchblade. Don’t lose it, I got it in Corsica

"Effectively combines three of my great fears: the dark, heights, public nudity."
- Happy (Zooey Deschanel)

Brian: How’s your soup?
Happy: A little…ligamenty.

At a glance:
Gigantic has many original and witty moments, and its low-key quirkiness is fun to watch, but it struggles to create characters that we care about, and its slight transformation into a conventional love story is a distraction

Our review (with spoilers):
The late great film critic Gene Siskel had a propensity to not only critique a film, but to make suggestions on how to improve the script. I tend to avoid this type of exercise. I believe a film is like an artist’s painting. We can view it and comment on it, but there’s no point in suggesting that there should be another tree added to the lower right. Having said that, I wish Gene was here now to rewrite the slightly sentimental turn that Gigantic injects into its story.

Brian (Paul Dano) has an unusual life-long ambition: to adopt a Chinese baby. He’s 29 now, and still on a waiting list. But this is obviously a strong passion with him, set apart from the other elements of his life. He almost sleep-walks through his job (selling luxury Swedish beds on commission). Brian is genetically disposed to quirkiness. His father (Ed Asner) walks the border between wit and dementia, and his brother John (Ian Roberts) speaks his mind, even during the pointy end of a massage. As Brian moves closer to getting that baby, he meets and get into a relationship (a quirky one of course) with Happy (Zooey Deschanel). Happy is passionate, but specializes in backing out of jobs and relationships whenever they get too serious. Happy is also quirky, as predetermined by the genes of her father Al (John Goodman). Goodman is again cast in a variant of the role he most often plays; a tactless businessman with a colorful past, he has the body shape and social graces of Homer Simpson; although, granted, he’s got a lot more intelligence than the cartoon character.

To complicate matters more, Brian is occasionally attacked by a street person – the same street person – who for some unexplained reason is stalking him, challenging him.

Gigantic is very funny at times; there are oodles of great lines. It is at its best when it delivers a steady stream of original, unusual scenes and situations (all presented in a low-key, somnambulistic mood). But it’s hard to care about the characters. As appealing as Paul Dano is, I had trouble taking his character seriously: a man who, as a boy of nine, was pleading for a Chinese baby? That’s intriguing but also a little creepy if true. Similarly, the success or failure of his relationship with Happy held no emotional meaning for me. Hopefully, other viewers had better experiences, because parts of the movie were charming and some of the dialogue is very clever.

Rating:  2.75 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"An indie comedy that's been kooked to a crisp. Wearing its quirkiness on its sleeve, the whole thing's just too self-consciously strange to engage."
- David Edwards (Daily Mirror [UK])

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