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Beowulf & Grendel

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 09/07/06 03:45:55

"Half silly, half smart, and surprisingly watchable."
3 stars (Average)

Sturla Gunnarsson's "Beowulf & Grendel" asks a fairly interesting question: What if the ferocious beastie from the ancient poem was not a mindless brute or animalistic killing machine -- but instead was a big, hairy, terribly misunderstood giant who was just really pissed off at the guys who killed his father?

That's the question at the heart of this newest and most democratic look at the old-old-school epic adventure, and (barring a small handful of really slow spots) it makes for a pretty diverting new movie. The cast is pretty strong, the look of the film is surprisingly effective, and the story moves along at a fairly appreciable clip ... for the most part, anyway.

Gerard Butler stars as legendary hero Beowulf, the man who shows up to help drunken King Hrothgar (Stellan Skarsgard) rid his countryside of a ravenous, murdering ... something. "Troll" is what the bloodthirsty Grendel is most commonly referred to, but as a strangely haunting prologue informs us, Grendel might just have a pretty good reason for his murderous ways.

Toss into the equation a saucy young witch, a babbling priest, and some truly stunning Icelandic cinematography, and you've got a surprisingly watchable flick on your hands -- even if a few of the performances skirt dangerously close to Uwe Boll territory. (Sarah Polley's witch character almost comes off as parody, and there's a weird amount of anachronistic profanity laced throughout the movie.)

But it's pretty clear that this particular version of Beowulf & Grendel was crafted with a half-decent budget and a lot of good intentions. It's not a dry and chat-heavy period piece, and it's not a low-budget hack-'em-up action-fest. More like a little from both columns, which means that if you normally dig this sort of olde-school adventure tale, you'll probably find enough to enjoy here. Purists, however, should stay far away, as Gunnarsson takes more than a few liberties with the source material.

I expected the flick to be either "low-budget silly" or "film festival stuffy," and was surprised to realize it was actually a fairly compelling mixture of both. If you're looking for a film that "faithfully" tells the Beowulf tale, you should probably look elsewhere, but if you're game for a strange and beautiful-looking new version of the story, you can safely give this one a rental.

( Review reprinted from DVDTalk, with permission from the author (me) and the DVDT management. For the full DVD specs on this particular movie, please visit www.DVDTalk.com and get friendly with the search bar.)

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