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Gods and Generals

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Gods and Generals

Starring: Robert Duvall, Jeff Daniels
Director: Ronald F. Maxwell
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 220 Minutes
Release Date: February 2003
Genres: Action, Drama, War

*Also starring: Kevin Conway, Stephen Lang, Patrick Gorman, Bo Brinkman, Royce D. Applegate, Cooper Huckabee, Bruce Boxleitner, Bill Campbell, Mira Sorvino

Review by Steve Rhodes
1 star out of 4

If you love GETTYSBURG, as I do, you won't want to waste a minute, much less almost four hours, on this monstrosity, a newly devised prequel to the 1993 film. It may be by the same writer and director, Ronald F. Maxwell, but GODS AND GENERALS, with its leaden dialog and awkward, amateurish acting, doesn't even rise to the quality level of a mediocre made-for-TV movie. GETTYSBURG burst with energy and authenticity. From its stirring music to its excellent performances, GETTYSBURG was a movie that I'll never forget, but its prequel feels like a community college production. Only in the impressive, but confusingly filmed and edited, battle sequences does the movie ever show any promise whatsoever. But in the battles it is never clear who is winning and how the battle fits into the overall war strategy. If you don't know your Civil War history by heart, you'll be hopelessly lost.

From its very first scene, in which Francis Preston Blair (Malachy McCourt) offers the leadership of the Union Army to then Col. Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall), the tone of the production is set. McCourt delivers one of the worst performances of the year -- not an auspicious beginning. Blair, who makes the offer on behalf of President Lincoln, is turned downed by Lee, whose allegiance is more to Virginia than to the U.S. It's too bad that Duvall didn't read the script ahead of time, in which case he should have been smart enough to turn down his part in the movie.

The costumes and the events are undoubtedly thoroughly authentic, even if the acting makes the events unconvincing. Where dialog should be, stilted speeches are inserted instead. The script creaks more than the boards in a haunted house in a horror movie. This movie is so awful that it could turn off an entire generation to Civil War history, which is a shame since this war is so key to the understanding of our country's subsequence history.

What a disappointment!

GODS AND GENERALS runs 3:45. It is rated PG-13 for "sustained battle sequences" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.

My son Jeffrey, almost 14, walked out since it was so boring. I understand his feelings completely.

Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes

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