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Movie Review: The King is Alive

Story: I had hoped this might be a film about Elvis, but alas, I was wrong. The King refers to Lear, not Presley (although Elvis was mentioned once). Danish director Kristian Levring is a member of a group of Scandinavian filmmakers who are part of DOGME (a cinematic vision created by Lars Von Trier, who gave us the wonderful Dancer in the Dark). Their aesthetic vision requires sequential filming (sounds good to me), handheld cameras (you know that jiggly effect), and the use of only natural light, sound and props. Okay, the rules are set, (with all of the requisite gritty realism) now back to the story. A lost tour bus filled with ten dysfunctional international tourists breaks down in the desert of Northern Africa (it was actually filmed in Namibia). Abandoned in an old mining town, they end of subsisting on canned carrots (watch out for the dented cans, please) and water formed by night's condensation as it rolls off of the roofs of the abandoned desert shacks. As one tourist leaves to try to get help, the others are free to display all of their glorious neuroses to us. The guys are very whiny and self destructive and the women are bitchy, sullen and vindictive. Since it is a Scandinavian film there is lots of lust, wanton sex, depression and jealousy. One of the tourists decides to have his fellow travelers perform King Lear while they wait to be rescued in order to pass the time.

This film has incredible desert vistas (I was very thirsty throughout the film) and it just missed being a really interesting film. For those of you that like survivor films (I do) you might give this film a chance.

Those of you that did not watch Survivor II on CBS, just skip to the rest of the review, but for those of you who were hooked, like me, read on. I could not help but think about Colby, Tina and rest of the annoying (Jerri and Kimmi) Kucha and Ogakor gang while watching this film. Can you imagine them living in the African desert (the next one is in Kenya) and eating only canned carrots? Imagine them performing King Lear as an immunity challenge? I learned from this film that it is easier to survive the elements than to survive the dysfunctional crowd you are abandoned with. By the way, I was rooting for Keith.

Acting: The acting was quite good. Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds) was exceptional. Jennifer Jason Leigh in a film always means there will be some self destructive behavior, but she was not as over the top as she ordinarily is portrayed.

Critters: Unfortunately there were no desert critters.

Food: The aforementioned canned carrots.

Visual Art: The desert vistas are wonderful visuals. Think, Lawrence of Arabia but with natural lighting.

Blatant Product Placement: None.

Soundtrack: Did not notice.

Opening Titles: None.

Theater Audience: Three guys in business suits and me. I decided I did not want to be stranded with them.

Quirky Meter: 3

Predictability Level: Low

Oscar Worthy: No

Nit Picking: There was a narrator, but he was speaking Swahili, so I didn't mind too much.

Big Screen or Rental: Rental is fine. But consider these other similar survival theme films ... my favorite, Alive, Lifeboat, Cast Away and let's not forget TV's Gilligan's Island and Survivor I and II.

Length: Two hours.