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Stupid Kids: Jay Hernandez and Kirsten Dunst engage in reckless photo developing.

2001, Touchstone
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The characters in "crazy/beautiful" (IMDb listing) are not in love. They don't share the kind of romantic connection that we huddle into theaters by the millions to watch. There is no sweetness or purity to the affection shared in this new film. And the devotion on display here certainly does not prompt the characters to stand up and sing as they do in "Moulin Rouge." "crazy/beautiful" is based more on lust. The characters don't really have love at first sight, nor do they develop anything more than a superficial romantic attachment. As shallow teen love affairs go, this thinly-veiled remake of the 1994 Drew Barrymore/Chris O'Donnell damaged-person-brings-down-good-kid-flick "Mad Love," is as shallow and uninteresting as they come.

Carlos (Jay Hernandez) is a disadvantaged high school student from Los Angeles who dreams one day of flying airplanes in the military. Nicole (Kirsten Dunst) is a wealthy drunk who is locked in a battle with her inner demons and her Senator father (Bruce Davison), who has all but given up on her. When they meet on a beach one summer day, it seems like the birth of innocent puppy love. But soon, Carlos becomes intertwined in Nicole's life and begins to sacrifice his own plans and ambitions to take care of his damaged girlfriend.

My main concern with "crazy/beautiful" is that not once—for any given minute of the film's running time—did I ever care what happened to the cast of characters. Carlos and Nicole's plight—in a real world setting—is a deadly serious one and deserves any amount of screen time set aside for it, however "crazy/beautiful" isn't deadly serious. Partially concerned with affection montages and street credibility in portraying teenage sex lives, the film ends up being clumsy with its emotions and careless in its storytelling. Blame it on director John Stockwell (the cable film "Cheaters") or the compromised editing of the film to make a PG-13 rating, either way "crazy/beautiful" isn't very absorbing or even the least bit heart-wrenching.

There is a spark of imagination from the filmmakers to infuse "crazy/beautiful" with a little more intelligence than its contemporaries. I applaud that. It's so nice to see characters who aren't fashion plates, or take delight is sass-mouthing their parents with carefully scripted one-liners. With all the monotone adolescent films of recent years, it's also great to see a teen picture that doesn't climax at the prom. But that's where my appreciation ends. "crazy/beautiful" is ugly to watch (in a weird decision by Stockwell, nobody in the film seems to be wearing makeup) and often spineless. Nicole's drinking and drug ingestion is mentioned as a heavy component in fueling her depression, yet we see her drink only once, and she imbibes not one drug during the course of the film. It's not necessary to see endless moments of substance abuse, but a nice montage of indulgence would've gone a lot further in detailing Nicole's hell then just rumpling up Dunst's hair or having her act plastered during party scenes. While Dunst does pull off this role with her typical ease, this talented actress needs something more demanding soon, before all hope is lost.

Carlos's own predicament doesn't make much sense either, as he is a gifted Latino student from a depressed community struggling breathlessly to maintain his focus, yet he suddenly drops all his responsibilities for a slightly baked Nicole? I don't buy it for one minute, especially when Stockwell includes short asides of Carlos getting attention from other girls. Besides, Hernandez play Carlos far too intelligent for him to be led so far astray.

As if "crazy/beautiful" doesn't have enough on its plate dealing with alcoholism and new love, the film also feels the need to address the racism that Carlos encounters during the time he spends with his friends. The film manages to get from point A to B without weighing itself down in too many hot topics, yet no picture that features a multi-ethnic cast can be counted on to take the high road and just leave prejudice alone. The movie even has the audacity to hand deliver these repugnant statements from the most one-dimensional, slack-jawed Caucasian character you could possibly imagine, just to be safe. The film has no place for this deadly predictable departure, and I despise the laziness of the production to even include it. The same type of nonsense tore the winter hit "Save The Last Dance" to shreds. "crazy/beautiful" suffers the same fate.

Filmfodder Grade: D-

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