THE MOVIE GUY: ‘Crisis’ an awkward comedy/political drama

Published 12:37 am Friday, October 30, 2015

Sandra Bullock’s new movie, “Our Brand is Crisis” is an awkward mix of slapstick comedy and political drama. It has a very uneven tone, and while there are some charming moments, it comes across mostly as a mediocre hodgepodge that fails to generate genuine laughs or cogent commentaries on contemporary political campaigns.

This film was originally intended as a star vehicle for George Clooney, and while he’s still onboard as a producer, it’s telling that he ultimately passed the script to Bullock. The general story concept is based on the real life events when James Carville was asked to help the President of Bolivia get re-elected, despite the fact that he was wildly unpopular at the time.

Bullock plays the gender-swapped consultant, Jane Bodine, who comes out of retirement to help the Bolivian President (Joaquim de Almeida), and to also settle a score with a rival consultant, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), who is helping the leading candidate.

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This will play as a behind-the scenes fight where both consultants are only concerned about winning the election, so shady tactics are fair game.

I suppose that this might have worked better as a genuine black comedy, but the film’s stars are ill-suited for really getting down in the mud. Bullock certainly tries her best, playing a woman who doesn’t speak the language, can’t handle the altitude or the Bolivian food, and desperately needs to find a new hairdresser. It leads to a lot of physical comedy, but Bullock’s movie star persona makes it difficult for her to truly embrace the silly stuff.

At the same time, the silly stuff keeps the movie’s thematic points from resonating. There’s plenty to say about the arrogance of two American political consultants thinking that they could fly in and take over a Bolivian national election. There are also minor points about how contemporary politics is all about winning rather than doing what’s right for the country. The problem is that whenever the film tries to bring any of this up, we’re quickly reminded that this is supposed to be a comedy with a quick piece of mediocre slapstick.

Ultimately, “Our Brand is Crisis” is still a watchable, end even an enjoyable film. Bullock is so likeable that she nearly saves the film, despite its story and screenplay flaws. Thornton is also very charismatic, playing the fast-talking manipulator who’s more than ready to be humbled. The supporting cast is also fine, and the Bolivian locations are exotic enough to give the film some added flavor.

All of which makes “Our Brand is Crisis” into a minor success, but it’s certainly not the thinking man’s satire we were all expecting, and it’s something of a disappointment given the talent involved in bringing this strange-but-true story to the big screen.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at