Combustible Celluloid
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With: Asa Butterfield, David Thewlis, Vera Farmiga, Amber Beattie, Jack Scanlon, David Hayman, Rupert Friend
Written by: Mark Herman, based on a novel by John Boyne
Directed by: Mark Herman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some mature thematic material involving the Holocaust
Running Time: 94
Date: 08/28/2008

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

1 Star (out of 4)

Deadtime Story

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a standard-issue coming-of-age movie in which a boy, the son of a German soldier, slowly learns about the Holocaust. As directed by Mark Harmon (Little Voice), the film follows the boy's point of view, leaving the actual details of the Holocaust to the viewers' knowledge and imagination... a mistake, since this soft-pedaling keeps the audience constantly one jump ahead of everything. And so, the picture is blatantly obvious, pandering, and rather insulting; James Horner's score blares at us from all corners of the film, as if none of the filmmakers had any idea what to feel about the subject. Vera Farmiga is the film's only bright spot, appearing to think and respond to the situations in the moment, rather than following the pathetic script and its neatly laid-out conventions. I can think of no better word for the film than the one Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly used: "appalling." This is the most glaring kind of Oscar mongering; thankfully the Academy didn't bite. Miramax's 2009 DVD comes with deleted scenes, a featurette and a director's commentary track (with the original author). You know you're in trouble when two of the critics' blurbs on the DVD box come from Jeffrey Lyons and Pete Hammond...

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