Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - DVD Review

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS (**1/2) - Starring Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis, Asa Butterfield, Jack Scanlon and Rupert Friend.
Directed by Mark Herman.

A kids movie about the Holocaust. Except it isn't a movie I'd show kids. Maybe it's doing things that way on purpose, like Avenue Q doing things Sesame Street style even though it's clearly not for kids.

It's very well-made, and I was drawn in by the friendship of the two boys, one of the son of a Nazi, the other in a concentration camp. Bruno is the German boy; Shmuel is the Jew. At first Bruno thinks Shmuel is just a worker on a farm he can't leave, and Shmuel doesn't seem too clear on what is really going on either.

I read a couple reviews before I saw it and I wish I hadn't. The vague references to the third act told me where it was going well before it got there, and I think if I'd seen it without hints, the movie would have had a greater impact on me. Even so, it can be melodramatic in an Oscar-bait sort of way. When it's just the boys, I feel like I'm watching two kids about to journey to Narnia or Terabithia. So why was this Holocaust movie made? I'm still not sure what the point is, other than maybe to show that adults may think they're being good parents doing the right thing, even when they're acting what history demonstrates as unspeakably evil.

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