Friday, September 25, 2009

Whiteout: A Cooked Carrot Fart of a Movie

Allow me to get scatological for a moment to make a point.

When my brother and I were in junior high school, we thought farts were the funniest thing in the world. They fascinated us so boundlessly that we even developed a Fart Taxonomy, as it were. We'd hypothesised that every form of gastointestinal expulsion known to man arose from one of three distinctive categories: The Rotten Egg Fart, The Potato Salad Fart, and the Cooked Carrot Fart.

The Rotten Egg Fart wore its self-explanatory name on its shoulder. It packed a sharp, attention-getting, nostril-stinging, sulphuric stench that usually erupted wetly, killed small birds at ten paces, and never failed to elicit maximum snickers. Rotten Egg's slightly less-potent cousin, the Potato Salad Fart, shared a bit of the nostril sting, only leavened by a foody, potatoey undertone.

But the most unspectacular, dreary fart--the one that extracted naught but resigned groans and dull disdain--was the Cooked Carrot Fart. Cooked Carrot usually trumpeted its arrival with low, growling notes, like a tuba being played underwater slowly or a naugahyde chair being punched. It was a thick, heavy, ugly--and worst of all, crushingly unhumorous--smell. It was the smell of the most uninteresting substances consumed by man, converting to an uninteresting gaseous state. It was the Boring and Unremarkable Wallflower Fart.

I'd readily concede to flaws in our classification at the time (we were a few years away from eating Taco Bell, which surely created its own sub-strata of stench), but I thought of John's and my Flatulence Classification System frequently as I watched Whiteout.

Bad movies, it could be argued, skew pretty close to the Tony and John FCS. The most entertainingly outlandish ones sting at the senses and elicit laughter or other extremes of attention-getting emotion, Rotten Egg-style. Others flirt with Potato-Salad-esque moments of potency, leavened by mitigating factors like budgetary limitations or a trickle of originality; less bold but still worth a chuckle or two.

Whiteout, put straight-up, is a Cooked Carrot Fart of a Movie.

Based on an acclaimed Oni Press graphic novel, Whiteout serves up a pretty standard-issue whodunnit. A scientist gets gruesomely murdered on the frozen tundra of Antarctica, and it's up to spunky US Marshall Kate Beckinsale to solve the mystery before too many more bodies pile up amidst the subzero temperatures. Through circumstances far too convoluted to mention Beckinsale, mysterious FBI guy Gabriel Macht, crusty-but-loveable on-site doctor Tom Skerritt, and nice-guy pilot Columbus Short wind up isolated at their arctic base to face a shadowy killer who may or may not be one of them.

The actors are appealing enough, I suppose, and Beckinsale does emote during one scene in her underwear (not a liability by any measure from this corner). But the piss-lousy script trots out cliches by the bucket. The Big Twist Ending gets telegraphed within the first ten minutes; numbingly literal flashbacks to Beckinsale's past as a Florida cop pepper the proceedings; and you can bet that when a character stumbles across a dead body with a bullet in its skull, he or she will state, "It's a dead body. And it's got a bullet in its skull."  Such hackery would be forgiveable--hell, welcome, even--if director Dominic Sena actually shoved things along with something resembling verve and brio. But don't let Whiteout's abyssmally low Rotten Tomatoes approval score (6%, ladies and gents!) fool you into thinking it'll be any damn fun: the movie unspools as slowly as molasses flowing up an arctic hill. It makes you appreciate the enthusiastic Rotten-Egg energy that you get from, say, an Uwe Boll film. Seriously.

1 comment:

Ray said...

The comic is good - honest! But the movie, well, I wouldn't waste my money to see it. ;)

Hope you're doing well, Tony!

--George