THE DARWIN AWARDS, movie beast or beast movie?


How to miss a movie that exploits the dumbest dead in the world? THE DARWIN AWARDS offers a textbook case, a frightening fiasco which never manages to seize its idea to make it something other than an inscription on its tombstone: here lies a film which does not even laugh at his own death.

You have probably never heard of THE DARWIN AWARDS of Finn taylor (or at most, just those sarcastic prizes that honor the dumbest ways of dying); And that’s good. But you will say to me: why the hell to speak about a film which is not worth the sorrow to be seen? Maybe out of frustration. Out of frustration to see in this uninteresting work a hilarious film in the making. And it’s always fascinating to realize how easy it is to miss a good movie. Some would say that THE DARWIN AWARDS is a victim of his ambition. But that would be to lend qualities to a work which has only its appetite for failure as a course of action.

The originality of the concept – or at least its comic potential – is quickly eclipsed by the inconsistency of the final object, a strange mixture of sketches stuck in an inconsistent thing that we would call a narration here. Finn taylor then tries to make the story of a profile stalking a serial killer with a tasteless investigation for an insurance company around strange “accidents”. If the strangeness is more about individuals who die of their own stupidity, THE DARWIN AWARDS offers only a small glimpse of it by never leaving enough room – and time – for these dumb deaths. Yet it was not difficult to get out of it an effective film where the stupidity would always be full and complete. But the treatment – while academicism – annihilates any attempt at a comic strike.

Credit: Aventi Distribution

Death peacefully at the box office, released almost confidentially on DVD and quickly relegated to the promotional bins of a provincial supermarket, THE DARWIN AWARDS is, so to speak, stillborn in oblivion. And with good reason. Because even when he tries to hunt down that “moron” look, THE DARWIN AWARDS appears out of date – passing after the comedies of Farrelly brothers or turbo-stupid films like Jackass or Zoolander – even when Taylor seems to film at times a kind of heroism in bullshit. There is no finesse, and yet, THE DARWIN AWARDS never manages to “fit in”, to gently tickle this humor as dark as the wing of a crow. If the film had accepted to be a chaotic episode of improbable deaths and endearing morons, still it could have claimed the title of comedy.

THE DARWIN AWARDS never seems to embrace the jerk movie that is germinating in him.

But his screenplay is so convoluted that it lugs us around from inconsistencies to inconsistencies with a remarkable exemplarity. How to explain, for example, the presence of a cameraman protagonist who would film a documentary inside the film? Is this an unacknowledged desire on the part of the director to pour into the found footage where the mockumentary ? Not really ; especially since Finn taylor almost never adopts the point of view of the diegetic camera in its production. The filmmaker probably had to spend more time looking at the Darwin Awards (in his defense, the anecdotes are poignant) than his own instructor: the frames also testify to a formal I-don’t care – at least as much as the substance – and here again, Taylor doesn’t use its obvious lack of budget to build an exuberant piece of bullshit, “punk” and morbid. The filmmaker simply does not know what he wants: either the film is sorely lacking in intelligence, or he forgets to sink into saving stupidity.

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Credit: Aventi Distribution

Anyway, THE DARWIN AWARDS never seems to assume the idiot film that is germinating in him. The lack of chemistry between the actors does not help to get the film out of trouble. Joseph Fiennes seems completely lost and next to his pumps in this role of profile who cannot stand the sight of blood; detail of characterization unnecessary for a film which is just as much. You still have to see him get in and get stuck in an improvised shower harness to understand the scope of the debacle that is THE DARWIN AWARDS : a work which agitates for not much, seeking to disentangle itself by the logic of a story which exists only for the imbalance and the absurdity. By his side, Winona Ryder brings enough charm to protect us from indigestion. As for the excellent secondary actors (Ty burrell or David Arquette, among others), their (too) short presence is unfortunately only illustrative.

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Also note that Metallica makes a note of presence; but seems to have difficulty in feigning surprise at the disaster in which the group is participating. This disaster is a film which, like its main character, seeks to predict stupidity, to anticipate it, to deconstruct it. Curious idea as it tends to go against the film itself. Why do you want to touch reason in a work that calls only for unreason and derision? However, we did not ask for the moon; simply a film stupid enough to touch the heart of its subject. And if laughter sometimes calls for regression, THE DARWIN AWARDS at no time exploits this comic potential; even if it means spanking yourself and getting nailed in your own coffin. With too little sarcasm. And very little impact on our zygomatics. Like what, even facing an unbreakable glass, the risk of falling remains high; just as a film can pass through its “good” idea.

Fabian JESTIN

Original title : The Darwin Awards
Production : Finn taylor
Scenario: Finn taylor
Main actors : Joseph Fiennes, Winona Ryder, David Arquette, Chris Penn, Juliette Lewis, Tim Blake Nelson, Julianna Margulies, Wilmer Valderrama, Alessandro Nivola, Robin Tunney, Max Perlich, Judah Friedlander, Lukas Haas, DB Sweeney, Tom Hollander, Metallica
Release date : January 25, 2006 (USA) / April 10, 2008 (France)
Duration: 1h30



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