PreyReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 02/06/07 00:57:19
Can somebody please explain Darrell James Roodt to me?If the name is not familiar to you, Roodt is the director of such politically-charged works as “Cry, the Beloved Country,” “Sarafina!,” and the brilliant “Yesterday,” which ranks among the very best movies made in the past few years. Roodt is also the helmer of the bland comedy “Father Hood,” the cheap thriller “Second Skin,” and the utterly horrid “Dracula 3000,” which ranks among the very worst movies made in the past few years. How can a man responsible for powerful, low key personal dramas also make that laughable Coolio-fights-vampires-in-space mess?
His latest is “Prey,” which lands somewhere between “laughable” and “tedious” on the far end of the Darrell James Roodt Spectrum. It offers hope, at least before the thing begins: it’s about Africa, and all of Roodt’s good movies are about Africa, so fingers crossed, this could work. But it’s also a thriller of sorts, or at least it wants to be one, and hope begins to fade. Darrell James Roodt does not do thrillers well at all.
The premise: a family has just moved to the heart of the Dark Continent, and with dad away from work, the world’s two most annoying children (played by Carly Schroeder, as irritating as she was in “Firewall,” and newcomer Conner Dowds) and the new step mom (Bridget Moynahan) they still don’t like decide to go on a safari. When the young brother pipes up that he’s gotta go, as in gotta go, the safari leader and the brat venture out of the Jeep, where the safari leader is immediately attacked by hungry lions. The family spends the next eighty minutes trapped in their vehicle, screaming, crying, and complaining, although surprisingly, none of them ever scream, cry, or complain about how the kid managed to get them in this mess. After all, if not for the boy, that guy would still be alive, and they’d all be cozy at home. But does he feel even the slightest bit of remorse? What a jerk.
Anyway. The rest of the film is more or less “Cujo Goes To Africa,” with Moynahan playing Dee Wallace. Occasionally they will venture out to seek help (including a lengthy sequence involving two poachers who show up, help little, then become lunch), and from time to time we’ll get to watch the exploits of the brave dad (Peter Weller) who convinces a grumpy hunter to help him find his kids, but for the most part, it’s screaming, crying, complaining, over and over again.
Instead of supplying genuine suspense or solid when-animals-attack! scares, Roodt (who co-wrote the script with Beau Bauman and Jeff Wadlow, the team behind the co-ed thriller “Cry Wolf”) spends his time developing unlikable, uninteresting characters; ten minutes with this family, and you don’t really care who ends up getting mauled, although it’d be nice if it was soon.
For the finale, we switch gears as Moynahan becomes Action Stepmom, realizing the only way to stop the lion attacks is with a great big ’splosion. (The script purposely ignores the fact that if you blow up your Jeep in the middle of a lion-infested wilderness, it’s probably not the happy ending you think it is.) And so “Prey” goes suddenly from boring thriller about a family yelling in a Jeep to an annoying actioner about tough moms blowing stuff up.Either way, “Prey” is fifty kinds of obnoxious, loud and dreary, at times flat out unwatchable. Roodt has no knack for building suspense; he hopes a few shots of people having trouble opening doors (what is this with all the door-unlocking problems, the world’s most defective Jeep?) will create enough nail biting to make up for a complete lack of concern in the proceedings. This is the ugly, miserable, slipshod side of Darrell James Roodt, the side that makes Casper Van Dien movies. Will we ever see his other side again?
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