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Reviewing the Reviews: 'Hannibal Rising'

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Hannibal_l

Hannibal_lI can’t even bring myself to tell you how many references to fava beans and chianti you’re in for in the the reviews of this widely-panned Silence of the Lambs prequel, which stars Gaspard Ulliel (A Very Long Engagement) as the young Hannibal Lecter,€” who (SPOILER ALERT!) turns to revenge and cannibalism after seeing his sister eaten by war criminals in WWII Lithuania. (End spoiler alert.) I would, however, like to draw your attention to one critic who’s gone bat-s–t crazy over this film. Not having kids myself, I’ve never bothered to read Nell Minow, the Movie Mom at Yahoo! Movies, before. Big mistake. Check her out:

“Families who see this movie should talk about the way people respond to the dire situations of war. They may want to learn about war crimes tribunals like those at Nuremberg and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. What crimes are and are not being addressed by our global legal systems today? Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the other Hannibal Lecter movies, especially Manhunter  and The Silence of the Lambs. They will also enjoy the classic serial killer film, No Way to Treat a Lady. If families want to learn more about resistance and complicity with the Nazi occupation during WWII, they should see Partisans of Vilna and The Sorrow and the Pity.”

Love her. And her idea of quality time with the kids. (I also have fond feelings for Horror.com‘s Staci Layne Wilson, who refers to the movie as “Truly a grand-guignol gothic revenge-western” and points out that “Rhys Ifans plays against type as a ruthless Nazi.” We would hope so.)

addCredit(“Hannibal Rising: Keith Hamshere”)

The critics also enjoyed dissecting Gong Li’s role as Hannibal’s martial arts-trained aunt-by-marriage. The Hollywood Reporter‘sMichael Rechtshaffen says, “Things go from merely strained to loopywhen the action transitions to what is supposed to be France, and hisexposure to Gong’s odd character sets the stage for an interlude thatcan best be described as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Cannibal, before our boy starts going about his grisly business.” This would be the portion of the film that The Arizona Republic‘s Bill Muller describes as “unintentionally funny.” And during which The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Steven Rea paid particularly close attention to the dialogue: “What Hannibal Risingis, mostly, is a hoot. Gong Li cautions the nightmare-plagued Hannibalthat ‘Memory is a knife — it can hurt you.’ A Paris police inspector(played by The Wire‘s Dominic West — yes, McNulty with a Frenchaccent!) observes that the med student-turned-murderer has becomesomething indescribable. But Inspector Popil will try, anyway: ‘What heis now there is no word for, except monster.’ And let’s not forget theclassic, ‘They ate my sister.'”

Some critics are willing to admit that the film is visually arresting: The Washington Post‘sStephen Hunter notes, rather creepily, that Ulliel’s face is “is a facemade for eating, long of jaw, sharp of feature, glittery and cunning ofeye, smileless except for a post-kill smirk. It works as a mask, but itnever expresses….The movie boasts great spectacle: Stuka vs. tank,Gong Li vs. her too-tight satin robe, Hannibal vs. the five freebooterswho chop-sueyed his li’l sister, some cool guns and two or three verynice, rosy-orange propane explosions.”

But we can’t help feel that Slantmagazine’s Jeremiah Kipp is on to something when he says, “The more welearn about the bogeyman, the less terrifying he becomes.” As the Arizona Daily Star‘sPhil Villarreal theorizes, “He’s far more frightening when he’ssomewhere in the shadows rather than right in our faces. He’s moreintimidating when he’s locked up than when he’s roaming free. He’s moreinteresting when we’re not quite sure what’s motivating him or whattortures he must have faced to evolve into his sadistic state.”

Food for thought, PopWatchers?