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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a movie that's been talked about so much this season, you might be surprised to hear that it's just opening today. It's based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story about a man who ages backwards. He's born old and dies as an infant. Los Angles Times and Morning Edition film critic Kenneth Turan has our review.

KENNETH TURAN: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is not a project that cried out to be filmed, but it's been turned into a major motion picture starring megawatt movie stars, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. You have to wonder why anyone bothered. The film uses that man-ages-backward notion as a framework to hang a completely random string of dramatic incidents, everything from a World War II naval engagement, to the finding of a foundling on the back stairs.

Unidentified Woman no. 1: Now, listen up here. Going to have us a visitor that's going to be staying with us for a little while.

(Soundbite of baby crying)

Unidentified Woman no. 1: He's not a well child, so gonna to have to take good care of him.

Unidentified Woman no. 2: I had 10 children, there's not a baby I can't care for. Let me see him. Oh God in heaven, he looks just like my ex-husband.

TURAN: This 2-hour-and-47-minute endurance test of a movie plays like people making the best of an assignment, rather than operating out of genuine passion. Passion, however, is part of what this film is supposed to be about. It tells the peculiar love story of Benjamin and Daisy, their romance is constantly thwarted by the fact that Benjamin's body almost never matches up with his chronological age. It's a problem even when they meet as children.

Mr. BRAD PITT: (As Benjamin Button, in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") I'm not as old as I look.

Unidentified Woman: You know, you don't seem like an old person. Are you sick?

Mr. PITT: Well, I heard mama and Daisy, whisperin'. They said I was gonna die soon, but maybe not.

TURAN: Benjamin Button would have had a better chance of success if it had a different director, not David Fincher, whose credits include "Seven" and "Zodiac." It's like asking the highbrow French auteur Jean Renoir to do a slasher movie. As Benjamin grows into childhood, he still has the look and infirmities of a very old man. So, the film places Brad Pitt's computer-aged face on the bodies of other actors who played him when Benjamin is a child. That's about as grotesque as it sounds. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" leaves you colder than it should, and it shouldn't leave you cold, at all.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for Morning Edition and the L.A. Times. You'll find more reviews of new movies, plus lists of the year's best and best movies listener poll at npr.org. You're listening to Morning Edition from NPR News.

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