In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_aprsjzadl6cggwjedxexw7kfnbc

Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Far Flunger Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Ratboy

  |  

"Ratboy" is a perplexing movie about a perplexing hero - a little creature that is half human and half rat and combines all of the least interesting characteristics of both species.

The rat boy lives in a garbage dump somewhere in the hills above Los Angeles, in a hovel furnished like a cross between a tree house and a rec room. Then he's flushed out by a couple of yahoos who think they can make millions by exhibiting him, and the movie turns into sort of a mini "King Kong" (1933) - complete with the scene where the creature breaks loose at the ceremony where it is being exhibited to the public.

I guess the rat boy himself is supposed to stir the same sorts of emotions, as "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" or "Pinocchio" - miniature quasi-humans with high spirts and loneliness in their eyes. But the key ingredient in any fable like this is the story of how the creature originated. Unless we can complete the sentence "He is like this because..." we are looking at a freak instead of a protagonist. And the rat boy remains unexplained throughout the entire movie.

Instead, the film turns into an attack on the crass commercialism of modern American society, with special emphasis on the media. Sondra Locke, who directed the film, stars as a slick operator who hopes to benefit from her friendship with Ratboy. She meets him by posing as a reporter, but before long she's a full-fledged promoter, renting a Los Angeles theater so Ratboy can have his own press conference.

The implications of a true rat boy are fascinating; remember what Francois Truffaut made of his "wild child," and how intriguing the resurrected Neanderthal was in "Ice Man"? The idea of being able to communicate with another species has been the subject of lots of movies, including "The Day of the Dolphin" and countless science-fiction films. But "Ratboy" doesn't seem curious about that aspect of its story.

It turns, instead, into a formula thriller - in which Ratboy and his protector, Locke, are arrayed against a mixed bag of bad guys, and the movie cops out by ending in a big chase scene.

I don't know about you, but I'm very, very tired of chases - all except for the good ones, from Steven Spielberg or William Friedkin. If a movie has introduced me to interesting characters, I want the story to explore and resolve their problems, and I don't feel fulfilled just because everybody chases each other, and the right guys win. Chase scenes provide movies with terminations instead of endings.

I began by saying "Ratboy" was perplexing. One of the things that puzzled me was why Locke wanted to make this story in this way. She plugs a fantastical creature into a screenplay made up of standard-issue Hollywood characters and situations, and ends everything with a chase rather than an emotional resolution. What was the point? "Ratboy" is very odd, but not in an interesting way.

Popular Blog Posts

Hashtag Activism and the #CancelColbert campaign

The recent #CancelColbert campaign on Twitter raises all kinds of issues about racism, but also about hashtag activism.

For the love of it: notes on the decline of Entertainment Weekly, the firing of Owen Gleiberman, and the ongoing end of an era

Owen Gleiberman's sacking as lead film critic of Entertainment Weekly — part of a ritual bloodletting of staffers at ...

One Year Later: Richard Roeper on Roger

Richard Roeper reflects on his long friendship and professional association with Roger Ebert.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus