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Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World
Review written by: Alex Sandell

Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World is the most overrated thing since 1996's Macarena Christmas CD.  Actually, I'd rather dance to the jolly tune of Macarena the Snowman, than watch this muddy misadventure.  Oh, how easy it is to sum up this little non-movie.  Want the essential moments of the plot in three sentences?  Here it goes:  An English war ship meets up with a French war ship.  They meet up again.  Finally, they meet up one last time!  And what happens in the middle?  Capt. Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) tries to decide whether he should use his Australian accent, or his English one. 

There is a brutally boring 124 minute lull in this 138 minute film.  But in this movie, a lull isn't enough.  Screenwriter and Director Peter Weir has created a film that contains certain moments that stretch so far beyond "boring," no word can suitably describe them.  There are a couple of words in the Klingon dictionary that may do the scenes justice, but I felt it unfair to resort to fictional descriptions created for the Star Trek universe to describe a movie set way back in the 1800s, when "Star Trek" was a concept as foreign as the Macarena.

In one of the most monotonous scenes, the English ship is stuck floating in one place.  Why?  There is no wind and no rain.  For days.  If you're sitting in the theater, it feels far longer.  "Oh, really?" You'll ask, "Has it only been days?"  During the dreadful stranded boat scene, this one paranoid dude, thinking he's cursed, jumps in the water and kills himself.  He floats down into the depths in the exact same way that Leo sank down in Titanic.  I'm still wondering if the two of them are dancing together somewhere on the surface of the ocean, to the tune of, Have Yourself a Merry Little Macarena.  I doubt Captain Jack's heart will go on and on and on for the dead dude dancing with Leo, but the movie sure does.  Just when it seems like it's over, it starts up again.  Actually, Master and Commander doesn't really start up, as much as it turns over and then dies, then turns over again!  Itís like starting an old car on a cold December morning, only not nearly as fun.  

We hear some absolutely pointless conversations which are drowned out by the film's repugnant music, which is so offensively loud; you'd need subtitles to understand what the actors are saying, underneath the god-awful score.  Even without this hideous soundtrack, the dialogue would be hard to understand, unless subtitles were provided.  Did Peter Weir instruct his cast to read their lines with Ron Jeremy sized dildos in their mouths?  If you pay close attention, which you probably won't, being that there's really no point, you can understand about half of what any given actor in the film mumbles.  Maybe that's just how the screenplay was written.  Jack:  "glabaoloy goo bob mumble?"  Some other insignificant guy, answering Jack's question:  "blippityybop boopoo mmmshhtyrite?"  

I've heard this film is based on a series of books written by Patrick O'Brian.  Some O'Brian fans are complaining that the bad guys in the movie are French.  I guess they weren't, in the books.  I have no idea if that's true, or not.  It does seem a little suspect.  If I wasn't dreaming, I believe I heard one person describe the French as a "Frenchie."  As far as I could tell, there were no "Freedom" Fries served aboard Captain Jack's boat.  But, still, what a Politically Correct enemy to use, in this day and age, when most Americans are incredibly stupid and cultish and super opposed to the French for using common sense.  I guess none of it really matters, because, by the time the English get into the final conflict of the film, most people will have either fallen asleep or will have walked out of the theater.  It's ironic that the last battle is the only thing worth viewing in the movie.

Thanks to a walking stick (those bugs that look like sticks); Captain Jack comes up with a plan to convert the look of his ship from a war ship to a whaling ship.  The French take the bait and ask the ship to surrender.  Of course, being that it's really a war ship, and Captain Jack is no pushover, all hell breaks loose.  It's a really fun scene, and having the ships as close together as they are, provides for some swashbuckling type fights that are far more interesting than the other battles in the film, where the boats shoot cannonballs at each other.

But that's all the audience is given, in terms of heart-pounding entertainment.  Really.  I suppose the scene where the doctor performs surgery on himself was mildly suspenseful.  The only thing I'm left wondering, after watching that, and other scenes of surgery, is this: don't people's wounds get infected in Master and Commander land?  I guess I won't lose any sleep over it.  Quite the contrary, actually ó it's hard not to nod off during the film.  Consider the occasional thuds of cannonballs firing the movie's version of a snooze alarm.

Forget 100 monkeys sitting in a room for 100 years ó this film could be hand-written by one drunken monkey with a hatred of the movie-going community.  It's that bad.  This flick runs 138 minutes.  A 138 minute film with two ships playing tag.  The idea isn't even unique.

If you're really into the small details of ships, and stuff, I could see you enjoying this film.  It does seem to adequately portray the life of men at sea.  But, I'm guessing the bulk of moviegoers will want a little action, along with the incredible detail of what a button looked like in 1805.  What's next?  Will Weir direct a 10 hour film showing men working in a factory?  How about an 8 hour movie showing a teenager putting pickles on a burger?  Unless you have a seamen fetish (that just sounded wrong), stay far, far away from Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World. 

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Coming soon -- Reviews of The Last Samurai, The Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King, and Honey!

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Text ©(Copyright) 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].