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'Beowulf' Sexes Up, Dumbs Down an Epic
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'Beowulf' Sexes Up, Dumbs Down an Epic

Movies

'Beowulf' Sexes Up, Dumbs Down an Epic
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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

And when film critic Kenneth Turan saw horses galloping at him in the 3-D version of "Beowulf," he was truly scared. But that didn't help his opinion of the movie.

KENNETH TURAN: It's been 50 years since Hollywood first started flirting with 3-D movies, and the special glasses required for viewing have gotten a whole lot more substantial. The stories being filmed are just as flimsy.

Of course, "Beowulf" does have a more impressive literary pedigree than, say, "Bwana Devil." But you'd never know that by looking at the movie.

"Beowulf's" story of a hero who slays monsters has become a fan boy fantasy that panders with demonic energy to the young male demographic.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "BEOWULF")

Unidentified Man #1: (As soldier) Who are you?

RAY WINSTONE: (As Beowulf) I'm Beowulf. They say you have a monster here.

Man #1: (As soldier) That's what they say.

WINSTONE: (As Beowulf) I'm here to kill your monster.

TURAN: Even dialogue that's what you'd expect, maybe a little stupider, doesn't prepare you for a movie that's overstuffed with gore fest moments I'd rather not describe. Ah, to be 15 again.

If you are old enough to vote, however, seeing all this splatter in 3-D may not be the thrill of a lifetime. And seeing the naked body of an old and overweight man in that extra dimension is probably not a treat for anyone at any age.

The film's use of the same performance capture system employed on "Polar Express" doesn't help. It's the technique which transfers the actors' motions to the screen but allows their appearance to be monkeyed with. So Angelina Jolie can look naked as the monster Grendel's mother. No wonder he's got problems.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "BEOWULF")

ANGELINA JOLIE: (As Grendel's mother) Are you the one they called Beowulf? Underneath your glamour, you're as much a monster as my son, Grendel.

WINSTONE: (As Beowulf) My glamour?

TURAN: What is most troubling about "Beowulf" is what it says about the career of director Robert Zemeckis. He's gone from being a director of stories to an orchestrator of eye candy and a willing slave to technological advances. But rarely has so much expensive technique been put to the service of such feeble and pathetic screenwriting. The man who brought you "Forrest Gump" now worries about spurting blood. Thus, does Hollywood devour its young.

MONTAGNE: The film is "Beowulf." Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. You can watch a clip from "Beowulf" and find reviews of more new movies from "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" to "Love in the Time of Cholera" at npr.org/movies.

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