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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Jack Brown Genius
Jack Brown Genius
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // PG-13 // October 13, 2009
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Bill Gibron | posted January 4, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The Product:
Now that he is a knight of New Zealand (it's true - look it up), Peter Jackson can pretty much do whatever he wants. Along with the local royal stamp of approval, he has total geek support, Internet nation back-up, more than a couple Oscars, and a cache of commercial credibility that will keep even his oddest cinematic fantasies from falling completely by the wayside. So one cannot completely fault Lionsgate for digging through his considerable credits and finding something they can link to for a little Lord of the Rings leader coinage. Enter Jack Brown - Genius. Jackson's contribution? A co-writing credit along with Fran Walsh and director Terry Hiles. Who's Hiles, you may ask? Well, he created the behind the scenes documentary on the making of Jackson's extraterrestrial zombie gross out comedy Bad Taste. Other than that, Jack Brown remains his sole feature filmmaking credit. One look at the end result, and you'll understand why, with or without a certain amiable auteur's input.

The Plot:
A thousand years ago, a monk named Elmer was obsessed with flying. Wanting to prove that man could soar like a bird, he invented some wings, took to the edge of a massive cliff, and flung himself off. Sadly, his attempt at flight was short-lived...and quite fatal. Upon his death, God assumed the spiritual sod had committed suicide and sentenced Elmer to 100 decades of purgatory. Fast forward to modern times, and Jack Brown is working for a despotic boss who is eager to win a contract with a Hong Kong energy firm. He believes our boy genius, and his super duper robotic shoes, will do just the trick. When the businessmen show interest in the transformer device that powers the sneakers, his employer is elated. All he needs is for Jack to perfect the item and it could mean millions. Unfortunately, our hero is suddenly "possessed" by the spirit of the dead holy man, and has only one thing on his mind - recreating Elmer's experiment and getting up in the air.

The DVD:
Like a favorite rock band that's badly out of tune one concert, or an interesting motion picture premise spoiled by a complete inability to render the material professionally, Jack Brown - Genius is almost unbearable. It's a curiosity...and not much more. It's a weird amalgamation of '80s high concept comedy, ditzy Downunder by way of Britain imagination, and enough over the top mugging to give Jim Carrey and Robin William hack hissy fits. There is nothing subtle about this film, no attempt to tie it to anything real or solid. If flights of fancy were fuel, this movie could light up the entire Southern Hemisphere. About the only interesting element here is the nonstop referencing to one Sam Raimi and his wacky doodle dynasty of horror comedy Three Stooges inspired craziness. Jack Brown - Genius is like watching Crimewave through a foreign filter, the juvenile jokes and rampant ripsnorting slapstick replacing anything remotely resembling storyline depth or dimensional characterization.

While Jackson and Walsh are co-credited with creating this nonsense, one gets the distinct impression of either Hines hijacking the entire premise and turning it problematic, or our future Oscar winners giving up after trying to salvage the director's flummoxing first draft. This couldn't be the duo's best shot. Still, it's an agreeable failure, filled with quirky bits that breeze by without making much of an impact. They include a weirdo prologue that sees a more serious attempt at dramatics ending up with a guy taking a fatal swan dive off a medieval cliff tower. We then get some gratuitous S&M (featuring some mostly unnecessary male backside nudity) and a journey to the center of some F/X brain. There's running gags about an unlucky food stand operator, a trip to Thomas Dolby's favorite insane asylum (right our of "She Blinded Me with Science") and a terrific car chase involving miniature versions of street trolley, forced perspective, and other nostalgic physical stunts. Still, it's not enough to carry us over the more misguided parts.

That includes a relatively lackluster performance from lead Timothy Balme. Whatever good natured goofiness he brought to Jackson's own Braindead (known in the US as Dead Alive) is all but missing here. It seems like all the energy required to play manic zombie slayer Lionel Cosgrove left the otherwise able actor with little remaining in the tank. He seems to be sleepwalking through most of the movie, mistaking a lack of liveliness with the title character's mandated mental agility. Even worse, the rest of the cast as like cardboard cutouts of perceived New Zealand archetypes. There's the brutish best friend, the confused gal pal, the belligerent (and kinky) boss and a boatload of Asians of non-descript origins (they are treated as Japanese, Korean, and/or Chinese throughout). Toss in a MacGuffin of an invention that is never well explained and a 1000 year old quest that seems rather easily accomplished (hasn't Jack ever heard of an Ultra-light? Or a hang glider?). When factored in, these elemental failures pull this proposed comedy out of the laugh arena and into the realm of a shoulder shrug. It's interesting, but not very entertaining.

The Video:
As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If Lionsgate does send a final product version of Jack Brown - Genius to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Audio:
As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If Lionsgate does send a final product version of Jack Brown - Genius to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Extras:
As stated before, this is screener - and a weird one at that. No real menu, just a DV-R like access screen followed by a prompt, a button push, and the start of the film. Whether or not Lionsgate will included added content once the final product is available is anyone's guess.

Final Thoughts:
Even the most dedicated Peter Jackson apologist will have a hard time defending Jack Brown - Genius. From its scattered plotline to its lack of real inspiration, this is a movie that tries far too hard while yielding less than enthusiastic results. Yet there definitely is a curiosity factor involved, considering the talent behind and in front of the screen, as well as the notion of sneaking a peek at New Zealand's still burgeoning mainstream movie biz. Therefore, even though the experience may be far from pleasant, a rating of Rent It will be offered. Of course, if the DVD package were decked out with all manner of bonus features, extras explaining the film while allowing those who participated a chance to reminisce and/or defend themselves, the score could be a bit higher. Don't go in thinking that this is some lost Peter Jackson masterpiece, however. Jack Brown - Genius is one mate doing a favor for another. It turns out, it wasn't a very good deed after all.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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