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Slumdog Millionaire

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The Kids Steal the Show in Slumdog Millionaire.

Feb 17, 2009 (Updated Feb 17, 2009)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

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Pros:Adorable and talented child actors, interesting story.

Cons:Lack of chemistry between grown-up actors, distracting flashbacks.

The Bottom Line: This is good and everything but I'm not sold that it was the best of the year.


Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of Jamal Malik, a young Indian boy, and the adventures which take him from the slums of Mumbai to the soundstage of India's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.  As the game show questions unfold, so does the story of Jamal's life as he learns about love, loss, and betrayal while accompanied by his power-hungry brother Salim and plucky love interest Latika.

Slumdog Millionaire has garnered substantial critical attention, most of it positive and well-deserved.  The idea of a character's life story told through game show questions is a novel one, even if the story itself is fairly predictable.  Unfortunately, the flashing back and forth between Jamal's past and present lives yanked me out of the story the first three or four times it happened.  The rest of the time I found myself just waiting for the next switch.  To be fair, I may just be a little flashback-fatigued on account of viewing Slumdog on the heels of fellow Oscar nominee The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

This film features a cast including incredibly talented child actors, including my personal favorites Rubiana Ali and Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar as the youngest and middle versions of Latika.  All six children who portray the three main characters are to be commended, and the film's other children manage to be equal parts joyful and heartbreaking in their more minor roles.    

Unfortunately, the adult character significantly less compelling.  Adult Salim (Madhur Mittal) goes through an interesting evolution but the grown-up versions of Jamal (Dev Patel) and Latika (Freida Pinto) aren't given a whole lot to do.  Mittal looks shell-shocked and Pinto blandly frightened throughout most of the film.  Despite the emotional back story built through younger versions of Jamal and Latika, I never believed that the characters were actually attracted to each other as adults.  Instead, they seem like victims of circumstance who are forced together and apart solely by the actions and actions of other characters.  I realize I'm virtually alone on this, but I didn't ultimately connect with Slumdog Millionaire on an emotional level and I attribute this to the lack of chemistry between these two actors.  Even the random Bollywood style dance number interjected toward the end didn't give me the warm and fuzzies.

Finally, this film does excel in transporting viewers through its use of a wide variety of images of India - both beautiful and ugly - as a backdrop for its action.  The shots of the slums of Mumbai, the brothel district, and new condominium construction provide a fascinating glimpse of this diverse country and its culture.

Overall . . .
Slumdog Millionaire is certainly an above-average film, but I still left thinking wondering what all the fuss is about.  I personally felt much more moved by the Oscar-snubbed Gran Torino which I saw several weeks ago.  Your mileage may (and likely will) vary, so I recommend that you see Slumdog Millionaire and judge for yourself.


Recommend this product? Yes

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