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Old 03-05-2003, 06:50 AM
Chris Alger Chris Alger is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2002
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Default Movie Review: Donnie Darko

It always caught my eye as passed it over on the video rack, thinking, why would they name a movie that would remind people of the sappy 1971 "Butterflys Are Free? (which invented a children's lit character named Little Donnie Dark). I understand that the writer is 26, but it still bothers me that nobody seems to remember the things that I can't forget but would like to. (Must be a middle age thing).

Then somebody on NPR started touting it as a cult-classic-to-be, something no one saw in the theatres but took off on cable and the video stores. It was also a big hit at Sundance.

It's the most interesting movie I've seen since Memento. Set in suburban New England in 1988, the title character is a bright but disturbed teenager who escapes death when a jet engine crashes into his bedroom (the rest of the family is spared). The engine misses him because a giant rabbit, Frank, wakes him up in the nick of time and orders him outside, where he tells Donnie that the world will end in exactly 28 days. Frank further complicates Donnie's already [censored]-up life by compelling to commit apparently senseless acts of destruction while dropping opaque clues about time travel and predestination. Donnie takes to the time travel idea obsessively, but generally considers Frank an unwelcome distraction from his more pressing concerns about controlling his psychosis, falling in love and determining whether, in fact, we all die alone.

These events unfold within a satire about teen angst up against dysfunctional families and exhausted institutions that punish the serious and gifted while exalting the moronic and obvious. There's a too-brief swipe at our dumbed-down political culture (Dukakis is debating Bush a month before the election) and a funny if overdone bit where old-fashioned Elmer Gantryism is dressed up as pop psych therapy to get it into the schools. And while we're trying to decide whether Donnie is clueing into some deeper metaphysical reality or whether he's just nuts, there's an alarming reference point at the beginning of the movie that even the sane characters accept: no one at the FAA can locate the airliner that dropped its engine on Donnie's house.

The movie doesn't really try to tie its various threads into a single coherent package (at least after one viewing), but by the end there's enough to make a point and keep you thinking long after it's over. If for no other reason watch this movie to hear Gary Jules haunting version of Tears for Fears' classic "Mad World" at the climax.
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