'The Informant!' Lies. What A Surprise! Steven Soderbergh's The Informant! is based on the true story of a corporate executive turned whistle-blower, played by Matt Damon. Critic Bob Mondello says the film is "hardly a disaster" but adds that the exclamation point isn't quite deserved.
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'The Informant!' Lies. What A Surprise!

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'The Informant!' Lies. What A Surprise!

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'The Informant!' Lies. What A Surprise!

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GUY RAZ, Host:

A few weeks ago, we talked with NPR's Bob Mondello about the new movie "The Informant!" starring Matt Damon. It was our fall preview show, and the movie wasn't available to see, so we tried to judge the book by its cover, and we watched the trailer.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE INFORMANT")

M: (As Mark Whitacre) What I'm about to tell you, it involves something very large.

M: (As FBI Special Agent Brian Shepard) Everyone in this country is a victim of corporate crime by the time they finish breakfast.

RAZ: Well, the movie is now out, and Bob Mondello has seen the whole thing. You're back with us here in the studio. Bob, does it live up to the trailer?

BOB MONDELLO: Well, in the trailer, it looked like lots of fun. You're going to make fun of all this.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RAZ: Yeah, right.

MONDELLO: It seems like a great idea. The thing is, we're dealing with Mark Whitacre. It's a true story about the guy who blew the whistle about price-fixing at...

RAZ: At Archer Daniels Midland.

MONDELLO: They do voiceovers where Matt Damon will have been told something by the FBI agents, and then he starts thinking about his laundry, right? I mean, it's just his head is somewhere else entirely. And after a while, you realize that it's just going to be about lies, that he's been lying to everybody, and so he lies, and then he lies again, and then you discover that the lie was a lie.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE INFORMANT!")

M: (As Shepard) Who else did you tell about the raid?

M: (As Whitacre) Well, I had to tell my secretary. So all I said was, Liz, I'm doing some work with the FBI. I might be out of touch for a while. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned the name Cathy Dougherty(ph) a time or two. She is a trusted ally, and I didn't want her to be scared.

M: (As Shepard) Why did you do that, Mark?

M: (As Whitacre) I trust her.

M: (As Shepard) Who else? Don't jack us around, Mark.

M: (As Whitacre) Kirk Schmidt(ph), Schmidty(ph).

MONDELLO: Well, after a while, this gets old. In 90 seconds in a trailer, that can be a lot of fun, right?

RAZ: Yeah. Well, we like the trailer.

MONDELLO: Yeah. No, it was great fun.

RAZ: They spent a lot of money going to see this movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MONDELLO: I was suckered. What can I say?

RAZ: You owe people...

MONDELLO: It's a '90s story with a sort of a '60s soundtrack and a '70s look. And by the time you're finished with all this and the comedians in serious roles and Matt Damon having gained 30 pounds to play it, there's so much going on that it's just too complicated. And ultimately, it doesn't seem to have the focus that it would need to actually be funny, and it's trying, really trying, to be funny.

RAZ: OK, so two weeks ago, the message was, go see "The Informant!" Now, the message is, stay at home; don't see "The Informant!"

MONDELLO: Well, no, no, no, I won't go that far, but go to it with much lower expectations.

RAZ: NPR's Bob Mondello. Bob, I also understand you have some new reviews at our Web site?

MONDELLO: Yeah, I did two pictures that I like quite a bit, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," which is the best title you're ever going to hear, but it's also a wonderful children's picture; and a very serious film from Australia about South Africa, called "Disgraced."

RAZ: And you can find all of that at npr.org. Bob, thanks.

MONDELLO: Always a pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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