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2 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Darwin Awards, The
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by Scott Weinberg

"The title's the closest this flick will ever come to any awards."
2 stars

I can't even tell you how pumped I was to see "The Darwin Awards." Of the half-dozen Sundance titles that I'd red-circled (a red circle being Scott-code for "see movie at all costs"), this is the one I was most hopeful about. As a big fan of Wendy Northcutt's series of "DA" books and a giant fan of dark irony in general, I was really curious to see how a series of short, twisted stories could be morphed into a narrative structure. I was afraid that "The Darwin Awards" would end up being an episodic series of funny-yet-unconnected sketch pieces ... but that approach would have worked a whole lot better than the one director Finn Taylor came up with.

According to the official website, "The Darwin Awards salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally kill themselves in really stupid ways." Basically, if you're moronic enough to accidentally kill yourself in the midst of doing something monumentally stupid, you're worthy of a Darwin Award, because you just made our collective gene pool just a little bit cleaner by removing your own chromosomes from the mix.

It's a snarky, semi-cruel, and darkly amusing concept, but it was enough to keep me chuckling through three of Ms. Northcutt's compendiums. I don't even care if all the stories are based on true facts; they're often silly, creative, and clever enough to read about, be they fiction or otherwise.

The movie, on the other hand, is 80% bullshit, flop-sweat, and painfully unfunny material, couched by maybe 20% of the material that the book fans will want to see. (One painfully overlong sequence involving a shower harness sums up the movie perfectly: it deals with flailing, aimlessness, and desperation.)

The overly convoluted plot plays like so: Joseph Fiennes plays a brilliant crime profiler who has a serious aversion to the sight of blood. After unwittingly allowing a serial killer to escape his clutches, said profiler is on the lookout for a new job. So he goes to one of the biggest insurance companies and explains how he can save them millions of dollars every year by successfully "profiling" the most bizarre accidental death cases and figuring out a way to refuse them payment.

So he's paired up with a feisty female claims adjuster (as played by Winona Ryder) and together the pair flit across the country, stopping only at locations where really stupid people have caused death through really stupid actions.

Also, and for no good reason that benefits the movie, there's a documentary filmmaker who tags along and records everything for his thesis project. This particular gimmick wears out its welcome in less than 15 minutes ... and then it's not even paid off with any sort of viable punchline.

So instead of a movie that could have maintained the giddily gallowish humor of Northcutt's books, we're stuck with a movie that snags maybe five of the author's stories (and not even some of the funniest) and wedges them, rather haphazardly, into a deadly dull romantic comedy confection that's as dry and uninvolving as it is derivative and dull.

As far as the Darwin Events, we're dealing with:

-An idiot who straps a rocket to the back of his car.
-A stupid car accident at a Metallica concert.
-A clueless pup who retrieves a dynamite stick for his master.
-A greedy exec who gets crushed by a Coke machine.
-A snooty moron who intentionally slams himself into "unbreakable" glass.
-An ignorant Frenchwoman who believes "cruise control" means "auto-pilot" and abandons her driving wheel for some oral sex.

Take it from someone who's read a lot of the source material when I tell you: These are some of the lamest ones in the books.

A huge stack of familiar faces tromp through the flick on an intermittent basis, but not even the likes of David Arquette, D.B. Sweeney, Tim Blake Nelson, Nora Dunn, Lukas Haas, Juliette Lewis, Robin Tunney, or the late Chris Penn can add much of a spark to the proceedings -- mainly because they're not given anything funny to do, but also because they're each onscreen for all of, say, 3.2 minutes apiece.

It's not the diversion from the source material that bothers me; it's the way in which the diversions from the source material are bland, listless, annoyingly familiar, and patently unengaging. (Looking for a fun way to spend 88 minutes? Pick through www.darwinawards.com.)

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13574&reviewer=128
originally posted: 01/30/06 22:11:58
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/27/11 millersxing Despite Adam & Jamie's cameo, DA displays less wit & chemistry than an ep. of Mythbusters 3 stars
2/18/07 Kris I agree, this was a big disappointment; rent Cherish instead. 2 stars
2/19/06 Chris I agree with Scott..don't waste your time! 2 stars
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  DVD: 31-Jul-2007



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