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Overall Rating
2.96

Awesome: 38.46%
Worth A Look: 11.54%
Average: 3.85%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap46.15%

2 reviews, 14 user ratings


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Surviving Eden
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Makes One Long For The Quiet Humanism Of "Temptation Island"
1 stars

Over the last few years, there have been any number of movies and televisions shows that have spoofed that most bizarre and pervasive of contemporary fads–reality television. However, “Surviving Eden” may be the first such attempt that is so bad that I would have actually preferred to devote the 89 minutes I spent watching it to sitting through actual reality television instead. After all, even at their worst, those programs at least try to entertain their audiences–a notion that seems to have escaped everyone who worked on this witless disaster.

Michael Panes stars as Dennis Flotchky, a chubby and socially inept loser who becomes a contestant on America’s most popular reality game show, “Surviving Eden” (imagine an Old Testament version of “Survivor”) after his roommate (a wasted Peter Dinklage) send in an audition tape as a joke. Despite having no discernible personality whatsoever, Dennis somehow emerges as a hugely popular presence on the show and winds up winning the entire thing. From there, he goes off to Hollywood and is swept up in all the trappings of instant fame–sex, drugs, all-night parties and meetings with network executives to discuss projects that will exploit talents that he doesn’t actually have. Inevitably, Dennis gets caught up in all of it and turns into just another show-biz shmuck–even forsaking his old friends as well as his crush on one fellow contestant, the semi-slutty Sister Agnes O’Malley (Savannah Haske) while falling into the clutches of another, the gold-digging tramp Maria Villanova (Cheri Oteri)–until the money runs out and he becomes just another has-been who was never much of anything to begin with.

So many things in this film go wrong that I found myself wondering at times how they managed to figure out how to turn the equipment on in the first place. For starters, the central character of Dennis is so decidedly unappealing that you never find yourself caring about what happens to him for a moment–hell, you never believe that someone that colorless could have made it onto a reality show in the first place. (More time seems to have been spent on making Panes look like Peter Sellers throughout–the “What’s New, Pussycat?”-era threads are especially odd–than in giving him a character to play in the first place.) The conceit of the film being shot by a documentary crew that is following Dennis around throughout is introduced and then so completely ignored that when they suddenly appear on-screen towards the end, most viewers will probably be wondering who the hell they are and where they came from.

Most disastrously, the observations that co-writer/director Greg Pritikin (whose previous film, “Dummy,” had plenty of the wit, charm and intelligence that is so utterly lacking here) makes about the nature of reality television and the contemporary culture of celebrity in American are trite and banal beyond belief. While I didn’t go into this film expecting another “Real Life” (the 1978 Albert Brooks gem that remains the most potent commentary about what happens when reality and entertainment collide despite being made two decade before the words “reality television” were even uttered), I would have hoped that a film railing against the media canonization of those who have done nothing to earn or deserve it, other than debase themselves in front of a camera, would demonstrate at least a little more wit or insight than is on display here–this looks and feels more like a aborted “MAD TV” sketch than anything else.

If, for some bizarre reason, you are somehow compelled to see “Surviving Eden” despite my warnings, be sure to stay for the end credits. For the most part, they are the usual compilation of deleted scenes and flubs that aren’t much different from the stuff deemed worthy of being in the film proper. However, there is one genuinely laugh-out-loud moment to be had and it comes when John Landis, who makes a brief appearance in the film as a network psychologist (and that alone is the second-funniest joke), pops up with an out-of-left field one-liner about Frances Farmer that is rude, irreverent and absolutely hilarious–the very qualities that are otherwise completely lacking in the rest of the film.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8865&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/01/06 15:16:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/27/06 Jim Pelkin Clever and humorous. 4 stars
8/18/06 L. Talbot The funniest movie since Spinal Tap. Love it! 5 stars
8/17/06 kimberly buzzelli Super comedy-lots of laughs 5 stars
8/10/06 Tiffany Naiman Great, Super Funny 5 stars
6/14/06 leon cane peter dinklage - way cool - love cheri oteri enlisting raffi/hotel clerk to get coffee! 5 stars
6/14/06 S. Rose Very,very funny movie--great timely story line 5 stars
5/25/04 George saw the film in austin and thoroughly enjoyed watching it. 4 stars
3/23/04 AL Levy Excellent, hysterical 5 stars
3/19/04 G. Souza Lots of laughs 5 stars
3/19/04 Nola Rocco Very Funny 5 stars
3/18/04 leon caplin hilarious with heart- a real gem 5 stars
3/18/04 damen wickedly funny take on reality programs; Cheri Oteri is awesome! 5 stars
3/15/04 Boombah Baby A funny film that makes a good point, though it makes it a little too long. 3 stars
3/15/04 Katherine Ralli Romberg Ideal mix of actors/ good balance/ away with those reality shows. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  25-Aug-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-Jun-2008

UK
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Australia
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