Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Kite Runner, or On Something Nice For The Old Folks

Remember when “arthouse” was an attitude, rather than a colour palette?

Disclosure: your correspondent has not read The Kite Runner. He is aware it has been passed up by many notable awards committees, and a quick Googling reveals that of those who bought it in airport bookstores, the majority were happy with their purchase. But even très-topical holiday-reads don’t get onto bestseller lists (third place, mind!) by being this mediocre.

So, fine: The Kite Runner is not a terrible film. Oh, the first act is assuredly terrible – all mawkish truisms and adorable foreign kids doing adorably foreign stuff like flying kites and prison-raping each other – and the second act is a bit plodding, providing exactly the sort of blandness you’d expect if a bunch of Hollywood execs made a movie about what it’s like to move to the West. But the third act, while scarcely credible, at least has a little bit of meat to it, somewhere between the easy-answer resolutions and glossed-over pathos.

(Here’s the extent of that glossing: one character was changed from a blond-haired neo-Nazi in the book to a vaguely racist Taliban in the movie, presumably because Nazism is like, a total downer, man. Can’t you see? We’re all people underneath it all, apart from the Taliban, who’re just cartoon monsters, and Nazis, who don’t exist).

As your correspondent still has not read the book, he can’t tell you how much of the cloying, aren’t-their-backward-ways-delightful tone is a carry-over therefrom, and how much is Forster’s middling direction (guy can do character like nobody’s business; too bad it all falls apart as soon as it becomes characters). But being as the film’s entire purpose seems to be to provide middle-aged white folks with some subtitles to read so’s they feel worldly, such hardcore half-assedness just kind of – meh – blends right in.

[originally appeared on Flicks]

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