Paul Newman Memorial Movie Review
FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY
Viewed at home, courtesy of Netflix
Meal: Popcorn and 2/3 of a bottle of Luzon Jumilla Spanish wine (2005)
We happened to have FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY in the house, courtesy of Netflix, so we watched it tonight with many fond nods and mental genuflections in the direction of Westport, Connecticut and the ghost of Paul Newman.
Good grief, this movie was made 20 years ago! 1989, to be exact. Starring Paul Newman, John Cusack (he dies in the end — oops, SPOILER), Laura Dern in a creepy Sean-Young-in-BLADERUNNER hairnet, Natasha Richardson (yes, alas) and some guy as Robert Oppenheimer, commie.
It’s not a great movie. It’s stylish, good-looking, and has a beautiful score by Ennio “I’ve Written Music for 485 Different Freaking Movies” Morricone. But… too many heroes, and of course, none of them are heroes because they’re building The Atom Bombs That Will Kill 200,000 Japanese Innocents. Except of course the Japs aren’t innocents, because they started the war. Except we built the bomb to beat the Krauts, not the Japs, and once we beat the Krauts we should have stopped building The Bomb! Except wait, John Cusack’s brother is fighting in the Philippines and needs the bomb to get home safe! Etc, etc.
The real problem is that the movie is built around Paul Newman and his star power, and in truth he’s not really the natural star of the movie. He’s General Leslie Groves, the not-very-likeable Army general who pushed the whole project forward. It’s just not the “star” role, frankly. Groves is the villain — the meanie who doesn’t understand sensitive genius ol’ J. Robert Oppenheimer (who has a hot commie mistress in San Francisco! And they’re listening in on his calls to her, the baddies! And he’s tortured by building the bomb! And Bonnie Bedelia is his tortured wife with nothing to do but appear every four scenes, looking tortured!).
Then John Cusack dies in a pointless accident (oops, SPOILER!) and the bomb succeeds and Oppenheimer gets treated like dirt. The end.
Except that the guy who plays Oppenheimer, Dwight Schultz, goes on to do voices in a million video games and TV shows you’ve never heard of.
Well, godblessyuh, Mr. Newman, you were the greatest. And the number of clinkers you appeared in is pretty darn small. This is one of ’em, though. So long!
I give it 3 lumps of killer unstable radioactive plutonium out of a possible 9.