Thursday, March 25, 2010

Miracle at St. Anna. C+

There are plenty of things that are wrong with Spike Lee's war movie 'Miracle at St. Anna' and yet I'm still on the verge of recommending it. The reason is mainly because I'm glad he made it his own (of course we expect this, as Lee's movies have never been generic), and also because for a near 3 hour movie he managed to make it fly by instead of drag. This movie wants to be important and it wants to be special, but I felt pretty early on that it wasn't going to go beyond mediocrity. Spike Lee either did the same or simply respected impatient audience members because this movie brings some superlative entertainment despite its serious subject matter. Well, at least more so than other earnest war movies like 'Saving Private Ryan' or 'We Were Soldiers.' So I give the movie props for being a solid piece of entertainment. Also, Lee, who wanted to make a war movie about blacks in WWII, delivers some fine scenes depicting their difficultly to fit in with the rest of the soldiers. One scene that really stood out came early on when a German woman spoke to them through speakers, trying to persuade them to switch sides. That's good stuff. That being said, the light touches on the movie didn't quite go well with some of the more disturbing aspects of the film. For example, Lee shows us some tender moments with the central characters as they stay with a kind Italian family. There's a romance, some light humor, and a touching relationship between one heavy-set black solider and a young boy. Then the next thing we know we're watching a large number of innocent men, women, and children getting shot by ruthless Germans. The movie isn't guided by any sort of coherent direction and though Lee is partly to blame, I think much of the problems lie in the hands of the script by James McBride (based off his own novel). I also thought the movie was a little too cute at times, mainly in the depiction of the relationship between the solider and the boy. This of course was meant to be affectionate, but it was a mistake to make the kid purposefully adorable and the heavy-set solider a cuddly teddy bear. We can see right through this failed attempt and it ended up coming across as corny sentimentality. I don't want to be too harsh towards this movie, but it just felt very obvious and the mistakes it made were undeniable.

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