Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Frank Review of "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (2008)

The Short Version? Eight year old son of evil Nazi befriends 8 y.o. Jewish inmate.
What Is It? Drama
Who's In It? Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis
Should I See It? No.

At some point, "never again" really needs to apply to Hollywood productions. The Holocaust has become a genre unto itself, after all. There's only so many different ways fetishized Nazis can torment emaciated bald ethnic types before descending into not only cliché, but outright exploitation. They're now an unholy marriage of the heartwarming "retard" Oscar-grab performance and a slasher movie. "Pajamas" is an excellent example of my theory, as it never met a trope it didn't like.

David Thewlis plays a father who doesn't appear to love his children, commands a labor camp, wears a Totenkopf, smirks at the funeral of his own mother, and generally turns a blind eye to the most egregious breaches of decorum. Vera Farmiga is the ambitious mother, who is somehow unaware of the treatment of Jews under Hitler until the closing months of the second World War, when she is suddenly struck by overwhelming conscience. David Hayman is the semetic former doctor turned humble and hobbled servant with a heart of gold. Rupert Friend is the sexy but overzealous young Nazi with a dark secret. Amber Beattie is the lonely daughter who finds puppy love and ideology among the Third Reich. Asa Butterfield is son Bruno, just trying to understand this gosh-darn mixed-up world he's living in, with his only friend being Zac Mattoon O'Brien, the Jew "playmate" whose jacked-up teeth do most of his acting for him. Wrapped up in a PG-13 rating, this is a loving tribute to the After School Special by way of Merchant Ivory.

The entire movie is oh so very on the nose. It seems to have been written by imputing every other Holocaust movie into a computer program, then running some sort of "high concept" filter over the material to insure it prints out an appropriate script-- the first time it saw human hands in the process. The film is completely obvious and paint-by-numbers until the very end, when Baruch Adonai, the bastards dial the presumed poetically ironic ending up to "11." It's one of the most outrageously stupid and implausible finales since "High Tension." M. Night Shyamalan wishes he could match it. It puts the "camp" in "concentration camp." Oy vey.

Side Note: I was making out with my Mexican girlfriend before the coming attractions, marking the umpteenth time I had to choke down a Seinfeld reference she wouldn't get.

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