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Monday, March 14, 2011

A Little-Late Film Review: The Chosen One (2010)

Rob Schneider has one of the worst film track records of any star I can think of. I can honestly say he has not been a good movie his entire career up to this point, and I went into the Chosen One expecting it to be a disaster. Well, it wasn’t. It’s not good, but it is not nearly as bad as anything he has appeared in in the past. The Chosen One is, however, a contemptuous piece with lots of sneering to those that do not believe in its moral authority. The story follows Paul, a suicidal car salesman who is falling apart due to an overload of tragedies a Lifetime Original would envy. He tries to kill himself but is interrupted by a chance phone call by his mother, and then again by a chance arrival by his close friend, Freddy.

One fateful day, he gets a visit from a group of Columbian shaman and a lovely guide who he is not too quick to dismiss (if he did this movie would exceed it’s intended 90 minute runtime). Upon their arrival we see some strange occurrences, but nothing that is really addressed, and most aren’t even mentioned more than once. They are attuned with nature, and Paul is not, and so they are there to “right” him, because he is the Chosen One. This is where the Chosen One spends its next hour rehashing the typical fish-out-of-water clich├ęs. We see the shaman mesmerized by television, we see them enthralled by a vehicle’s power windows, and we watch as they try to barter an apple with a single seed in the produce section of a grocery store, making translated educated observations like “We are fortunate to arrive at the time of the harvest.”

I’ll get into some of the supporting characters that appear between these recycled scenes in a moment, but there is one very important thing about this film I want to address: its ending. The ending of the Chosen One follows roughly eighty minutes of build-up and offers little payoff. It attempts to take the hints that the film has thrown in over time and mesh them together to form a cohesive climax, but none of this matters because the intent of this conclusion is not to reveal what has been hinted at but to strike the final nail into the film’s message, as it is hammered into our brain.

The Chosen One’s self-important moral is that these lowly shaman from Columbia are a million times happier and better than you are. Why? Because they love and respect the Earth, and you don’t! That’s why! This is so blatant that it isn’t so much an undertone as it is a thirty-foot, flashing neon sign towering in the background. I don’t so much have a problem with the message, so much as the way it is delivered. We are constantly told that everything we, as Americans, do is wrong, wasteful, or amoral. This is an offensive message coming from a film that still assumes most of the spiritually-mature, religious people in South America live in a tiny village in the rainforest and that they worship a nearby mountain.

That complaint aside, I did get some laughs out of the dialogue in the Chosen One. It has some honestly good writing in some of the scenes. The supporting cast is also funny, with its main secondary character being Steve Buschemi as Paul’s Buddhist-convert brother who’s moral-superiority and constant self-adulation is meant to be annoying (I find this hilarious, personally, as this film is JUST like his character in that sense). The back-and-fourth between these two is good, and helps the film out of its mire of arrogance. Other performances, like those of Carolina Gomez and Holland Taylor, are good as well, though so understated that it feels like they were toned down to keep Schneider and Buschemi from being upstaged.

The Chosen One is not a bad film. It is a bad story with a good screenplay, but the performances are fairly good, and that includes Rob Schneider. If it weren’t for the constant hits from the writer’s superior morality, it would have been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, but as it is, it is about as enjoyable as being told how bad you are for 90 minutes in a slightly funny way, which is essentially what the film does. We are supposed to get a message out of this, this I know; but I don’t find myself much caring what that message is. It is all told to us in the end, and the whole time we have been chastised, it was over something so pointless that I was actually offended. Watch this one for the screenplay, but if you didn’t spend your Saturday chained to a tree to prevent its demise from the crushing route of a bulldozer, you are probably going to feel the sting of this movie’s moral whip.


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