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Movie Review: Changeling

Alternate Title: The Snake Pit

Story: Remember when Emperor Joseph II said to young Mozart, "My dear young man, don't take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. There are simply too many notes, that's all". That is the problem in director Clint Eastwood's new film, written by J. Michael Straczynski - there are simply too many plot lines.

There is no way to stuff a story about missing children, corrupt police, a sympathetic single mother, unwarranted incarcerations in mental institutions, a serial killer and a trial into one film and come out without something that is more like an over the top soap opera, sob story. There are too many horrors and too many outrages to believe the story and yet we are told it is true (not just based on a true story). So what went wrong? Sorry Mr. Eastwood, but we the audience, need a focus. The story never coalesces. Every scene is fraught with sorrow, anguish, tears and wailing.

It is 1928, pre-Depression Los Angeles, Christine Collins returns from her job as a roller skating telephone manager to discover her 10 year old son is missing. The police ignore her report and months later substitute another boy found in the Mid-West for her son. The lady righteously doth protest and protest and protest. Her lack of cooperation gets her tossed into the loony bin. She manages to enlist the aid of a local preacher with a wide band radio audience, cross paths with the one apparent honest LA cop and on and on.

The film also offends by having more than one ending, Just when I thought it would fade to black we get to see a few more endings. By that point in time, I was planning what to have for dinner. Save yourself time and money and read a good book.

Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Gki4gmYx10

Acting: Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins, has done far better work. Her over the top performance was disappointing.John Malkovich as the Rev. Gustav Briegleb, is his usual creepy self - even as the good guy. Jeffrey Donovan as Capt. Jones, Michael Kelly as Detective Lester Ybarra and Colm Feore as Chief James E. Davis were fine in their roles as LAPD guys, good and bad. Jason Butler Harner as the murdering Gordon Northcott, was squirmy and believable. Amy Ryan as Carol Dexter, another inmate in the loony bin was underutilized. Denis O’Hare as Dr. Jonathan Steele, was terrific.

Trivia: Clint Eastwood weighed 11 lbs 6 oz at birth.At age 74, he became the oldest person to win the Best Director Oscar for Million Dollar Baby (2004). He directed 8 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Gene Hackman, Meryl Streep, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Marcia Gay Harden, Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank and himself (in Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby (2004)). Hackman, Penn, Robbins, Freeman and Swank won Oscars for their performances in Eastwood's movies.

Predilection: None

Critters: Chickens

Food: Breakfast food.

Sex Spectrum: None

Soundtrack: Typical music by Clint Eastwood.

Opening Titles: Simple type with title. Al credits at end.

Visual Art: A saturated canvas throughout. The under populated Los Angeles of 1928 looked fake.

Theater Audience: Fairly crowded for a midweek afternoon show.

Weather: It's LA - what do you think?

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: Child abduction and murder, police corruption and shock treatments are all squirmy.

Drift Factor: I looked at my watch very often and found that time was standing still.

Predictability Level: High

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: No

Big Screen or Rental: Skip it.

Length: Too long at 2 hours and 20 minutes.