Classic lit translates into a classic failure

Category: Beowulf & Grendel Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: July 13, 2006 | Publication: Chicago Daily Herald | Author: Dann Gire
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Sarah Polley has been one of the most fearless and astute young movie actresses of her generation. She takes chances and usually winds up being the best part of any movie she's in.

Not so in "Beowulf & Grendel," Sturla Gunnarsson's cold and stark retelling of the first great work of English literature about a mythic superman who tangles with a monster during A.D. 500. As a sexually provocative witch named Selma, Polley's flat American accent, lipstick, eye makeup and healthy teeth stick out like sore appendages in this brutal and violent tale of revenge set against the barren backdrop of Northern Europe.

Gerard Butler, making amends for his vaporous "Phantom of the Opera," stars as Beowulf, a legendary warrior sent for by King Hrothgar (Stellan Skarsgard), whose tiny kingdom has been terrorized by the murderous troll Grendel (Ingvar Sigurdsson). Hrothgar doesn't tell Beowulf that years ago he killed Grendel's daddy, which explains the troll's vicious attacks against his men.

The thundering sea, sheer cliffs and stony landscapes become characters here as much as the actors do. This film, although a scene-setting marvel, takes a disastrous turn when it tries to infuse contemporary language (with lots of the "F" word) into the dialogue, and it all sounds comically phony, or just comical, as when Polley warns, "Luck can be a whore!"

Beowulf's legendary encounter with Grendel's mother makes for a memorable movie moment. As Old English lit's First Lady of Bad Mommas, she makes Mrs. Voorhees and Mrs. Bates look positively Carol Brady.

The film opens today at the Century Centre Cinema, Chicago. No MPAA rating, but contains sexual situations, cursing and extreme violence. 102 minutes. IPB Image IPB Image