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CrankyCritic® movie reviews:

The Beach

Rated [R], 115 minutes
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Screenplay by John Hodge
Based on the book by Alex Garland
Directed by Danny Boyle

IN SHORT: Lovely scenery.

These are the rules of The Beach (sorta but not exactly):

  1. Never refuse an invitation
  2. Never fail to be polite
  3. Never outstay your welcome
  4. Enjoy the experience
  5. If it hurts, it's probably worth it

If you believe what you saw in the teevee commercial, ignore rule 3, 'cuz the suggestion that the inhabitants of the most perfect place on earth, with untouched beaches of silky white sand and a happy little utopian community of grown-ups inhabiting their own NeverNeverLand who will kill you if you want to leave, is almost a flat out lie. A bit of misdirection meant to make you think that there's a lot more danger and suspense to The Beach than there really is.

Cranky thinks: Someone in the movie house should've put the gun to my head before this stinker gave me carpal tunnel syndrome from looking at my watch.

Why Leonardo DiCaprio chose The Beach as his follow-up to the megahit Titanic is beyond us. Perhaps this is another case where a really good book went through the shredder to produce a really bad film. We're sympathetic to Leo. Anything he could have chosen, were it not to live up to the box-office of James Cameron's pic, would have been considered a bomb. But did he have to go the travelogue route?

Y'know why travelogues bore the crap out of me every minute of my life when I am, say, conscious and coherent? It's 'cuz they provide nothing more than lovely pictures of lovely places and, other than that, zzzzzzzzzzzzz. From personal experience I can tell you that, when I'm in a drop dead gorgeous place like Hawaii, even the most beautiful real time scenery becomes commonplace after a couple of days. That, we told ourselves in those lovely post-college years, is why God invented booze and dope.

And, no, The Beach does not have a political agenda in re: Weed. It's used for a plot point, mainly, and one which is quite out of place given the mood of most of the rest of the flick.

So here we have adventurous traveler Richard (DiCaprio), an American in Bangkok searching out the adventure of his life. In the cheap hotel room to the left are a French couple, Francoise (Virginie Ledoyen) and Etienne (Guillaume Canet) who are very very much in lust -- the walls are real thin, y'see. In the cheap hotel room to the right is Daffy (Robert Carlyle) who literally tears his way in to Richard's room to offer him a spliff and some vacation advice. Just another nutty, harmless Brit with a story of the perfect unknown yadda yadda, which he has "escaped" from. Next day, there's a map on Richard's door and a corpse on Daffy's floor.

Yeah, I'd run off to find this place . . . but as a twentysomething, yeah, an unspoiled island with perfect beaches sounds like its worth the risk to get there. And, yes, there are significant risks, natural and man made which I won't spill 'cuz you should at least get something more than Leo walking around tanned and topless for your bucks. Once there, our intrepid trio join a community run by Sal (Tilda Swinton) and Bugs (Lars Arentz Hansen) and learn to live the natural life of spear-fishing, cricket and soccer playing, and avoiding sharks.

The Beach is like a stew of discards or borrowed gags from movies like Blue Lagoon, Lord of the Flies, Waking Ned Devine and Apocalypse Now. Plot elements meant to bring suspense to the story don't. Illicit sexual liaisons that could bring out the macho in any man or woman don't. Perhaps it's the tranquilizing effect of the Thailand scenery. Perhaps there was just too much in the book by Alex Garland to make a logical translation to the big screen.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Beach, he would have paid...


As I said, lovely scenery. There is nothing to explain how the team of (director) Danny Boyle and (writer) John Hodge, who teamed so brilliantly on Shallow Grave and Trainspotting could have delivered such a dud.

The best gag in this film is that the eldest males of this community are named Daffy and Bugs. That's about as clever as it gets.

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