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

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_large_nqau8oyqozqla1fhyl0htrfn4yf

Stray Dogs

Tsai Ming-Liang's first feature in five years is a mysterious and alienating series of tableaus about the fragility of flesh and the smallness of humanity.

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

Stray Dogs

Tsai Ming-Liang's first feature in five years is a mysterious and alienating series of tableaus about the fragility of flesh and the smallness of humanity.

Other Articles
Blog 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

There's Something About "Blade Runner"

A new look at the role of hero and villain in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner."

The Unloved, Part Ten: "The Village"

Part ten in Scout Tafoya's The Unloved series tackles "The Village."

The strength of Robin Williams

An appreciation of the actor's perseverance through age 63 despite depression.

Different rules apply

White privilege, lived.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus