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Little Buddha

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Little Buddha

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Ying Ruocheng
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Rated: PG
RunTime: 123 Minutes
Release Date: May 1994
Genres: Drama, Family

*Also starring: Chris Isaak, Bridget Fonda, Alex Wiesendanger

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

I went with low expectations to see LITTLE BUDDHA but was quite pleasantly surprised. LITTLE BUDDHA is a fairy tale interwoven with a cartoon like telling of the Buddha story. The fairy tale is that a great Buddhist teacher from Bhutan who died nine years ago may or may not have been reincarnated into a nine year old boy who lives in Seattle. He is given a cartoon picture book of the story of Buddha, and we have periodic long flash backs to the life of Buddha played much like a cartoon but starring Keanu Reeves as Prince Siddhartha who later became known as Buddha.

Like most fairy tales, or operas for that matter, you must be able to suspend disbelieve if you are to proceed. Think about it. If someone comes to your doorstep claiming to be a Buddhist monk and says he wants you to leave your young son at the local temple for examination since your son might have been reincarnated, would you a) slam the door, b) call the police, or c) leave your little boy at the temple? In the movie, they eventually pick c.

This is a beautiful film written and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci who did THE LAST EMPEROR. It was easy to forget logic and go with the story. I am familiar with Western Judeo-Christian beliefs but knew nothing of Buddha or any of the legend surrounding his life. I found that part fascinating. I do not know what liberties Bertolucci took with the Buddha story, but I found it pretty bizarre besides being fascinating, but then again, any religious story probably sounds strange to someone who knows nothing about that religion.

Bridget Fonda (most recently excellent in SINGLE WHITE FEMALE) plays the mother and Chris Isaak (small part in Silence of the Lambs) plays the father of the nine year old (Alex Wiesendanger - a new actor). Bridget Fonda's acting ranges from good to excellent. She is good here. Isaak gives a blah performance. The little boy is okay. I think Keanu Reeves (e.g., in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING - like his acting abilities) is a terrible actor. This movie confirmed my opinion. It is the monks (led by Ruocheng Ying) and the story itself that make this movie come alive.

The imaginative script is by Bernardo Bertolucci, Mark Peploe, and Rudy Wurlitzer. It shows the monks as real people who joke, fall asleep accidentally, and have to be reminded to take their medicine yet have almost a mystic quality about them nevertheless.

Copyright 1994 Steve Rhodes

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