Ok, so this movie is not a cinematic masterpiece, so what. It has engaging characters and funny, crazy stories. Basically, it’s a blast to watch. It focuses on Burrows and Siri as they research “Darwin Award” cases for an insurance company. Traveling with them is a documentary filmmaker (yes you eventually get to see his face, but not until far into the movie).
This is for those of you that don’t already know what a “Darwin Award” is. It is an award given to people who died in the most idiotic way. Basically, the idea is to award them for making the world a better place by removing themselves from the gene pool (thereby improving it).
Michael Burrows (Joseph Fiennes) is a criminal profiler for the San Francisco Police Department. One problem though, he has hematophobia (fainting at the sight of blood). Which of course leads to him no longer working for the S.F.P.D. Burrows is a detail oriented, cautious man. He can quote statistics about pretty much any kind of death or accident you can think of (and is rather over zealous about trying to avoid being one of those statistics). Also, he is obsessed with “Darwin Award” cases. After he loses his job with the police department, he works for an insurance agency researching those types of cases.
He is partnered with Siri (Winona Ryder). She is pretty much the opposite of Burrows. Which of course will lead to both strife and attraction between them. Joseph and Winona are great together. It’s fun to see them both in roles that are different than they usually play. Winona as a hard hearted tough woman. While Joseph still plays a serious character, he ends up in some ridiculous predicaments that show a different side of him. Wait until you see the shower scene, it was so unexpected and just plain silly. The first time I saw it I laughed so hard that I could hardly breath.
The stories are urban legends that most people have heard of at one time or another; the car with the JATO rocket, the “unbreakable” high rise window, the killer vending machine, etc. That doesn’t make it any less fun to see them played out on the screen. They also managed to get great actors for the segments; Alessandro Nivola, Lukas Haas, Juliette Lewis, Tom Hollander, David Arquette, the Mythbuster guys, the guys from Metallica and John Doe (founder and bass player for the punk band “X”) to name a few.
Siri – “Yeah, you probably wouldn’t unzip your fly without assessing the risk first.”
Siri – “No. No, dummy. This fish in the trees.”
Burrows – “It’s not like you thought, I’m gonna lie down and look for fish in the trees. You fell.”
Burrows – “The Piano Man. He rocks. He’s a musical genius.”
Burrows – “I could ram a spork up your a$$.”
Carla – “Christ, man, who’s flying the plane?”
Pilot – “I just put it on auto-pilot, ma’am.”
Henry – “Oh, f*ck’.”
Farley – “Use that Popeye strength from your mama!”
Farley – “Dude, I’m tokin’ simultaneously.”
So to sum it up, this is a movie to watch when you want a bit of light hearted fun. It’s great for when you’ve had a rough day and really need a good laugh. Plus it gets bonus points for having The Violent Femmes song “Gone Daddy Gone” playing throughout one of the story lines (I love that song).
Following is additional information about the movie that contains spoilers. If you don’t want to be spoiled don’t read any further.
Having the documentary guy, played by Wilmer Valderama, was a great idea. It gave a character for Burrows to interact with when he was “alone”. He was able to talk directly to us (looking straight at the camera) without it seeming odd.
I liked how the more obsessed that Burrows became with the “Darwin Award” incidents the more he started identifying with the people involved. Which lead to him inadvertently doing things that were stupid, thus becoming more like them. Such as the shower incident and accidentally blowing up the car. It’s really a case of the more you dwell on something the more likely you are to cause it to come into your life.