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Cate Blanchett looking as
bored as an audience for
Review written by: Alex Sandell
Babel is an assemblage of superficially intertwined stories worming around one another in a way designed to give them the appearance of being something other than lame soap-opera like tripe. The film isn't complex, profound or meaningful. Instead, it's rubbish so pretentious it would make the folks behind Crash begin to blush. The film is predictable, the stories aren't interesting and the only reason anyone would consider a single scene "important" is because its screenwriter (Guillermo Arriaga) and his enabler of a director (Alejandro González Iñárritu) keep reminding us, over and over again, that their film is important.
Grand Canyon, Magnolia, Happiness and Short Cuts all pulled this "Six Degrees of Separation" style of melodrama off without a hitch. Sure the films were pandering, but at least they were semi-believable and made for an interesting watch. 2005's Crash came off as more of a comedy than a work of art, but it did have its entertaining moments. Babel is so bad it should never have left script stage. A script written by an amateur in an online "Introduction to Screenwriting" course by someone slacking off by taking a minor in Liberal Arts. But somehow this became a Major Motion Picture about a series of semi-tragedies that end up going just about nowhere.
We have a nanny watching the two children of a man whose wife has just been shot by a boy whose father bought a rifle from a neighbor who was given the gun by a wealthy businessman who lives in Japan and whose daughter is deaf, desperate and possibly retarded and some other guy's family helps keep the woman who was shot alive by passing a peace pipe and applying pressure as the nanny is told she can't leave the kids to go to some wedding, so she takes the kids to Mexico where -- on the way back to the United States -- the most insanely stupid and contrived shit ever put on film occurs. And that's just an outline. Wait 'til you have to sit through this laborious lark of a motion picture.
The screenwriter and director strain to tie these predictable and petty tales together to ride the coattails of Crash's success. The audience will have to stretch as much as the filmmakers strained if they are to suspend their disbelief to the degree required to fall for this gimmick. Even Crash had a narrative that in its own weird way sort of flowed. Babel stops and starts, sputters and spits, but not once does it kick into gear and hit a smooth patch of road.
Some actors are overused (Brad Pitt) while others are entirely wasted (Gael García Bernal). Why Cate Blanchett signed on to this is beyond me. The actress -- one of the best of this or any other generation -- lies on the floor moaning most of the movie and is only occasionally tossed a "touching" line such as "I peed my pants." The characters themselves are caricatures and the film constantly asks for empathy but doesn't deliver a single storyline believable or sympathetic enough to earn the affinity it begs for with its bloated pauses, slow music and tiresome twists.
If I never reviewed another film again, I would still have plenty of material to critique for the next 20 years thanks to Babel. But this one is too easy and I don't want to spoil it for those of you who will feel compelled to give it a chance before Oscar night. So I'll save the detailed stuff for emails, dinner conversations and Mystery Science Theater 3000. I'll try to forget that I ever had to endure this picture or that the Hollywood Foreign Press awarded it Best Motion Picture - Drama and that the Academy gave it a Best Picture nomination over the exceptional Pan's Labyrinth. If not for some impressive acting by select members of the cast, Babel would be the perfect "1". As it stands, Babel just can't get anything down to perfection.
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