by Rick Villalobos
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A father and son relationship is complicated. The father is the head of the house hold, the bread winner, and the keeper of his flock. The son, well, is just trying to survive the next eighteen years while living up to his dad’s expectations. His official title, other than couch potato or freeloader, is unknown. He has yet to go off into the world and make a name for himself. A good father only wants what is best for his son – a job, healthy kids, a beautiful wife and a couch preferably located in the comfort of his own home.
Barkley Michaelson (Bryan Greenberg) is a graduate student with an evil genius for a father, a college professor of chemistry and a Noble Prize recipient. Barkley is broke, single, and a push over. His father, Dr. Eli Michaelson (Alan Rickman) is a chauvinist, a cheat, and an egotistical windbag. Both are discontent with each other and both are stuck in the same crazy and mixed up world.
Here’s the gist: Dr. Michaelson is awarded the Noble Prize. Barkley meets a beautiful poet named City Hall, played by Eliza Dushku. He spends a passionate night with her and ends up being kidnapped. The ransom for Barkley’s safe return is 2 million dollars - the same amount given to the good old professor by the prize committee.
This film is like the little engine that could – remember that story? Well, just when this tale about a group of sycophants seems to run out of steam, it picks up again and continues on to the finish line. I can’t explain it any other way. That’s what it feels like watching this film - the story drags from scene to scene, making this picture just too darn long. Surprisingly, Nobel Son has a charm that keeps you interested long enough to see what happens next. It keeps going and going, revealing plot twist after plot twist.
The cast of veteran actors is impressive: Danny DeVito, Ted Danson, Ernie Hudson, Bill Pullman and the lovely Mary Steenburgen. Having an all star cast doesn’t work for every film. In some cases, directors are just lucky. Here - it has to do with talent more than the Juju coming from a rabbit’s foot. The performances, as expected, are reputable. Alan Rickman is the one to watch. He plays a crazed and horny middle aged scholar with ease - yup, it would make every lonely college professor ashamed and envious. It is down right funny.
The DVD will release on June 9th.
Special features include:
• Commentary with director/producer Randall Miller, writer/producer Jody Savin, musician Paul Oakenfold, cinematographer Mike Ozier and actors Brian Greenberg and Eliza Dushku.
• Deleted scenes with optional commentary from director/producer Randall Miller and writer/producer Jody Savin
• Alternate ending sequence
Rick Villalobos is a writer and film critic in Chicago.
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