February 16, 2001

Oh Brother!

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The fact that the talented Coen brothers wasted their time on O Brother, Where Art Thou? is preposterous. Based, very loosely, on Homer’s The Odyssey, this movie is a marathon of its own, with no end in sight.

The film begins slowly with three bumbling convicts (George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson) on the run in 1930s Mississippi. But the puzzling question is: what are they running from? For at least a half an hour into the movie, the audience is kept in the dark, a tactic which could be successful, but not at the beginning.

The characters encounter a series of obstacles, such as a run in with a religious group, a meeting with the Sirens, and a Ku Klux Klan invasion. These scenes which are supposed to drive the plot and character development fail to be interesting.

John Goodman and Holly Hunter had the potential to strengthen and enliven the plotlines, but their small roles and dull performances ultimately preclude this from happening. The plot just goes nowhere and is quite dry. These two big stars should not have wasted the viewers’ time or their own.

The best part of this movie is the time-appropriate setting and light-hearted music. With live country performances popping up here and there, the score adds a feeling of levity to the film. Also, the accurate period costumes and beautiful scenery allow for some stunning scenes to be executed.

Even though this movie was deemed by some critics as “one of the funniest of the year,” I laughed at most five times. If you’re hoping for something even half as good as the extraordinary Fargo, your expectations will likely not be met.

Why George Clooney signed on to this movie is a mystery to me. One word should have come to his mind when he read the script: BORING! The excitement of Clooney’s character is limited to his obsession with his hair (a little self-parody perhaps) and his odd use of an expansive vocabulary. How did Clooney’s performance get him a Golden Globe? Come on now.

John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson are sometimes funny as the stupid sidekicks. But at times, having two moronic sidekicks instead of one seems like overkill.

It is a mystery why O Brother, Where Art Thou? was even made. Lacking wit and a good story, the Coen brothers should have thrown this script in the wood-chipper.

Archived article by Cory Sinclair