Char­i­ots of dire

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES - Leigh Paatsch

BEN-HUR (M)

+Direc­tor: Timur Bek­mam­be­tov (Wanted) Star­ring: Jack Hus­ton, Toby Kebbell, Mor­gan Free­man, Ro­drigo San­toro, Nazanin Bo­niadi, Ayelet Zurer

ONCE upon a time, when peo­ple were re­ally ex­cited about some­thing and wished to con­vey its mas­sive mag­ni­tude, they used to say “it’s big­ger than Ben-Hur!”.

Though Ben-Hur has been adapted for the screen since the dawn of movies, its epic rep­u­ta­tion is all about the fa­mous 1959 Hol­ly­wood adap­ta­tion of au­thor Lew Wal­lace’s 19th cen­tury bi­b­li­cal best-seller.

That was the one where a mostly shirt­less, al­ways gri­mac­ing Charl­ton He­ston suf­fered all kinds of in­dig­ni­ties at the hands of the an­cient Ro­mans. Then showed ’em up by win­ning char­iot rac­ing’s equiv­a­lent of the Mel­bourne Cup.

The movie won 11 Os­cars, played in cin­e­mas for years, and was pretty much the Ti­tanic and Avatar of its era all rolled into one.

Now here comes a new ver­sion, blessed with a mas­sive bud­get, the best CGI ef­fects that bud­get can buy, and, umm, Mor­gan Free­man with some funky grey dread­locks su­per­glued to his head.

Be­fore we ad­dress this fee­ble film as a whole, let’s leave out the char­iot race se­quence from the over­all as­sess­ment.

Though it’s a choppy, croppy cy­clone of CGI horses gal­lop­ing at break­neck speed and mow­ing down any prone pedes­tri­ans who hap­pen to be on the track, it’s a darn ex­cit­ing spec­ta­cle in its own right.

If you were charged no more than a fiver to catch the race as a stand­alone short, it would be a pretty sweet must-see deal. But no, you’ll have to sit through 100 min­utes of turgid New Tes­ta­ment soap opera to get to the good stuff. Most of the slog is caused by the stilted best-of­fren­e­mies ban­ter shared by Jewish no­ble­man-slave Ju­dah Ben-Hur (the charisma-chal­lenged Jack Hus­ton) and Ro­man mil­i­tary of­fi­cer Mes­sala Severus (Toby Kebbell, not bad un­der the cir­cum­stances).

There are also plenty of un­ex­cit­ing bat­tle scenes full of clank­ing swords, whoosh­ing spears and blood-stained lace-up san­dals. All the male ac­tors speak loudly and kind of slowly, as if they’re ad­dress­ing an el­derly re­la­tion who won’t buy a new bat­tery for their hear­ing aid. All the fe­male ac­tors dart their eyes this way and that, and look in­creas­ingly wor­ried from scene to scene, just in case we might for­get Jerusalem was not a great place to be in the year 30 A.D.

Though that lo­ca­tion and date en­sures there will be a fea­tured cameo role for the one and only Je­sus Christ, he is played by a hip­ster­ish hunk (Brazil­ian ac­tor Ro­drigo San­toro) who messes up the holy trin­ity of beard, hair and divine pres­ence com­pletely.

The dude looks more like the best barista to ever hail from Beth­le­hem than a soon-to-be son of God.

Suf­fice to say, this ain’t no Ben-Hur. It is a Ben-Huh?

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