Slumdog Millionaire

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Maybe it’s me. Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe Slumdog Millionaire is a great film, and not a cloying, manipulative, well-made but unmoving melodrama. Could be, I’ve been wrong before. Danny Boyle’s latest film is a huge smash, with critics and audiences alike, and was nominated for several Academy Awards. So, why did it leave me feeling so cold?

This film looks great, the music is incredible and it’s definitely got energy and style to spare, but, to put it bluntly, I just didn’t care about the story. Maybe one aspect was I felt like the characters weren’t very interesting, besides the smarmy TV show game show host Prem Kumar (expertly played by Bollywood star Anil Kapoor). The main actors, Dev Patel and Freida Pinto, are charming and cute but never really develop their characters.

Slumdog Millionaire tells the story about a young man who grew up in the slums of Mumbai, and winds up on the Indian equivalent of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” The gimmick of the movie is that every answer on the show pertains to some aspect of his life, so we get a slew of flashbacks that coincide with these questions. In the flashbacks, we see Jamal, the hero, his brother Salim and Latika, the girl that Jamal falls in love with, as they grow up, and go separate ways.

The love story angle feels especially tacked on, as does the subplot involving Salim as a criminal. It’s silly soap opera stuff that doesn’t really fit with the film. I feel like an old fuddy duddy complaining about a film that obviously has brought so much joy and has so much meaning to so many people, but I just didn’t like it. For me, this film has a clear case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” syndrome.

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