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O Brother, Where Art Thou?

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro
Director: Joel Coen
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 106 Minutes
Release Date: December 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael Badalucco, Wayne Duvall, Charles Durning, Stephen Root, Chris Thomas King

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?, an adaptation of Homer's classic tale, "The Odyssey," is by none other than the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan. You know, the ones who brought us THE BIG LEBOWSKI and FARGO. Don't worry, there aren't any subtitles, and the adaptation is loose, very loose. This version concerns three hayseeds who escape from a Mississippi chain gang. Set during the Depression, the film's imaginative cinematography looks like a print left out to bake in the hot Mississippi sun, which makes the heat palpable.

The convicts, Everett Ulysses McGill (George Clooney), Pete Hogwallop (John Turturro) and Delmar O'Donnel (Tim Blake Nelson), might be called a bunch of half-wits except that they don't have a whole brain among them. With an angry group of state police chasing them, they are heading for some buried loot. They only have a few days since a new dam will shortly flood the area. If they can get there in time, they figure that they can split the $1.2 million among them, giving each of them $500,000.

The cat-and-mouse story meanders like a leaf drifting lazily on a stagnant pond. The movie's salvation lies in the eclectic songs and music, which feature old-timey gospel and country tunes. The gang of three, calling themselves "The Soggy Bottom Boys," record a hit record, which gives them more fame than their criminal exploits ever did. The film uses music heavily, including a magical scene of singing muses sitting on large boulders in a river. This gives you reason to look for the music video and the CD of the soundtrack. It doesn't, however, provide you enough reason to see the picture, which lacks one essential ingredient, humor. This is a comedy in which I didn't laugh once nor did those around me.

The Coen brothers are brilliant visual stylists, which they amply demonstrated in FARGO and do so again in this film. Many scenes give you much to admire, even if not much to like.

"I'm awful pleased my adventuring days have come to an end," Everett says at the story's conclusion. And so was I. I just wish that it had come much sooner and that I had just seen a music video of the film's singing finale rather than having to sit through the entire movie.

O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? runs a long 1:46. It is rated PG-13 for some violence and language and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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