Review: 'V for Vendetta' ... and Vacuous

March 17, 2006 — -- Lots of controversy surrounds "V for Vendetta," where the hero is either a terrorist or a revolutionary, and the enemy is a parallel London 20 years from now that's become a fascist dictatorship.

Scheduled to open last year, the film was postponed after the real London subway bombings. The Wachowski brothers, the filmmakers who gave us "The Matrix," have tried to make an important political statement. I guess they get points for trying.

The largely British cast turns in excellent performances. Natalie Portman, out after curfew, is manhandled by the 21st century English Gestapo when V (Hugo Weaving, Agent Smith from "The Matrix") saves her life.

"This country stands on the edge of oblivion," says John Hurt as the High Chancellor, addressing a cadre of yes-men. "I want everyone to remember why they need us."

Hurt's lines are right out of Orwell, and half of "V for Vendetta," is "1984." That's the Wachowskis' intent, and it's good filmmaking with a powerful message. They're giving us a serious warning against fascism and totalitarianism.

Still, "V for Vendetta," based on a graphic novel, is sabotaged by its second half, which is more like "V" for vacuous. By the end, it's "1984" meets "The Phantom of the Opera."

Tell me, filmmakers, how does one man alone in a totalitarian state take over British television then all alone manufacture and ship 200,000 masks? Explain that and I'll tell you I don't want something as important as democracy defined by a refugee from an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. (Grade: C+)

'She's the Man,' Plays Like Poor Shakespeare

In this 'tween comedy, Viola pretends to be her twin brother, Sebastian, so she can play high school soccer on the boy's team. She ends up falling for one of her roommates, a guy named "Duke." But if you ask me, she could do a lot better than a guy who looks like he's 25 and is still in high school.

Meanwhile, the girl Duke has the hots for falls for Viola because she thinks she's Sebastian.

Believe it or not, the plot -- and even the character's names -- are straight out of "Twelfth Night" by William Shakespeare, who might consider suing. Some of the jokes here were old even in his day.

In a lame attempt to amuse older teens, "She's the Man" manages to alienate the parents of the younger ones with tampon jokes. In "Twelfth Night," Viola proved she was a girl by putting on a dress. In this movie she takes off her shirt.

In "V for Vendetta," they blow up Britain's Parliament. In this film, they might as well blow up the Globe Theater -- not a good week for England at the movies. (Grade: C)