Thursday, February 3, 2011
Is it too late for me to get a blurb on the above poster? I think I'd like to go with "Not Funny." And this comes just days after I posted a review in which I said something to the effect that carrying unstable explosives automatically makes for good cinema. How quickly FOUR LIONS came around and made me eat those words. If you even watch two seconds of the linked trailer, you'll see that the sight gag that opens the preview (and the movie as well) is culled right from THIS IS SPINAL TAP's Stonehenge bit.
My main beef with the movie is that ninety percent of its jokes fall completely flat. It just isn't funny. The theater was pretty quiet, with the exception of one old woman who whooped loudly at every joke they threw our way. And throw them they did. It seemed that they were hoping to get laughs through the law of averages rather than quality writing.
Part of me wonders how many people in the audience actually enjoyed it. It seems like the type of movie that left-leaning people will be expected to find funny because of its controversial subject matter--I expect many people will alter their opinions in order to feel not left out from the hordes that are singing its praises. I do applaud the filmmakers for having the courage to push the envelope and make comedy out of a subject many would consider taboo. I also think that the acting was good, given the material. They did their best. The main faults of FOUR LIONS begin on the written page, and later in the cutting room. I suspect that very little was left on the floor.
The movie is overlong, or it feels overlong at just over 100 minutes. Part of the problem is that it is unfocused. They time spent in a terrorist training camp is over in the first half hour of the film and seems to be just a vehicle for gags. The other problem is that the climax of the movie feels interminable. It is long. It feels like they are trying to make every possible critique of terrorism and counter-terrorism that they can, and tack some gravity and sentiment on there to boot. It feels heavy handed and may have been more successful if they just stayed in the shallows the whole way through. After that they throw two more lengthy scenes at you. And then, as if you hadn't seen enough, the credits are peppered with scenes that didn't make the main bulk of the movie.
I can't say that I found the trailer particularly enticing, but a couple of glowing reviews had pushed me to check it out in spite of my gut feeling. I feel let down. Failing to deliver on the promise of laughter should be considered a form of terrorism.