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"The Darwin Awards"
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Video
Genre: Comedy
Release:
8/07/07
Special Features: Previews, featurette, interviews, photo gallery
Review:

A mildly amusing film that has a great premise that is fumbled more than caught, "The Darwin Awards" takes its name from a website (and books) that celebrate those of us who eliminate us from the gene pool through idiotic behavior. For example, golfing during a thunder and lightning storm or attaching a jet engine to the back of our car. Unfortunately the characters in this film are more a collection of annoying ticks than actual human beings. Joseph Fiennes is Michael a brilliant police profiler who has one major flaw--he faints at the sight of blood. Michael is under constant surveillance when he agrees to be the topic of a film by a student (Wilmer Valderrama). When he loses his job after botching the arrest of a serial killer due to the sight of blood, he embarks on a new career because he has no choice--he approaches a insurance company with the idea of profiling those who are at higher risk of dying using risk factors that indicates that their policy holders might die due to their own incompetence. He's given a chance to prove his theory when he's paired with a cynical, foul mouthed insurance investigator Siri (Winona Ryder) to assess a number of cases that the firm hasn't paid off yet. If Michael can prove his theory, he has a job that will save the insurance company millions. The duo investigate a man (David Arquette) who straps a jet engine to his car, a pair of heavy metal rockers (one of whom is Lukas Haas) trying to sneak into a Metallic concert and a man (Chris Penn in his last role) who claims his car was stolen while ice fishing. ***

What works in the film is the main plot point what doesn't work is the subplot of the film itself-Michael feels he must figure out why the serial killer he let run free is killing and, more importantly, what his literary clues mean. This subplot feels completely artificial and just doesn't work within the context of a film with such an off-beat sense of humor. This along with the quirky characters that have absolutely no appeal to the audience whatsoever (Michael is like the TV character Monk without any of that characters appealing quirks and Fiennes just can't sell the role). It's like slapping that jet engine on an old car expecting it to suddenly be a hotrod-it just ain't gonna happen folks. The film works best when it focuses on the small details of those average Americans that have less common sense than a cow standing in the rain. Arquette, Penn and Juliette Lewis provide amusing occasionally touching cameos in the film. The plot point about the grad student shooting the film also doesn't quite work; why would Michael continue to let the student shoot his film after he loses his job but, more importantly, it constantly takes us out of the film when it moves from its documentary style. ---

Image & Sound:

"The Darwin Awards" looks fine although there was a bit of a problem with pixilation on the preview copy I received. This problem will more than likely be corrected as the preview copy was a single layer DVD-R burned by Fox. Audio sounds fine occasionally using the 5.1 format to good effect (especially during Arquette's segment). ---

Special Features:

We get a short featurette on the making of the film with bits and pieces of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. These interviews show up again AFTER the featurette with during a sequence that lasts about a minute. We also get a photo gallery of behind-the-scenes and production photos. ---

Final Words:

I was really rooting for "The Darwin Awards" with its off-beat humor but the structure of the film and lack of character development undermines this flick. It's mildly amusing but would have had so much more potential in more capable hands. The scenes that work best for the film are those involving the people being investigated while the main story about Michael and Siri seems forced and just doesn't gel. Actors Fiennes and Ryder don't have any chemistry on screen. It's not a film I would buy but it might be worth a dollar rental if everything else is off the shelf.

 

 
 
 
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