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Wed December 10, 2008
One of the best this year
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"That he should be so abject, base and poor,
To choose for wealth and not for perfect love." Shakespeare's Henry VI
In a time of global fusions, Slumdog Millionaire is a successful blend of thriller and Bollywood hyperbole, a feel-good story of love, fidelity, and brotherhood set in Mumbai's most dangerous and glamorous places. We are alternately thrust into the streets where children are relentlessly exploited and into the sumptuous set of the Indian equivalent of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"
Danny Boyle's fabulous story has the Dickensian motif of poverty to riches and the American dream of crossing class lines to triumph with altruism. Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) rises from an abysmal childhood running from the worst of adult supervision to become a finalist in a quiz show he hopes his lost friend and love, Latika (Freida Pinto), will be watching, the 20 million rupees prize never his real goal.
According to the formula for romantic, uplifting dramas of the poor's struggle for a place in middle class life, no one could mistake what will happen to Jamal on his quest. Indeed, he fulfills Joseph Campbell's monomyth formula, the cyclical pattern for the mythological hero: separation, initiation, return.
Although a few attempts at humor seem out of place, Jamal never varies from his serious knightly quest to save the fair maiden.
Boyle has wisely and creatively veered from the staid and standard to keep his formula fresh. For instance, he begins in Citizen Kane style at the end, the quiz show, and then ingeniously interweaves questions on the show with how Jamal learned the answers in the course of his life, thereby justifying multiple flashbacks.
Also, Boyle, for the few parts of the film that need translation, has placed the subtitles where I have not seen them before, and I appreciate the audience-friendly approach.
It is a time for pulling out the genres?epic adventure in Australia, scary vampiring in Twilight, and predictable action in Quantum Solace and Transporter 3. Slumdog is by far the best of the re-imaginings.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time and Cinema Classics shows, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand anytime at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain
Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com