The Island Of Dr. Moreau

A bewildering mixture of ambitiousness and tripe, this latest version of the 1896 H.G. Wells SF horror classic, featuring Marlon Brando as the mad doctor experimenting with DNA to create strange beasts on a remote Pacific island, shows some aspirations of being truer to the philosophical drift of the original than either Island of Lost Souls (1933), which featured Charles Laughton, or 1977’s less memorable The Island of Dr. Moreau with Burt Lancaster. But Brando’s decision to milk almost all of his lines for laughs (and plummy Laughton-like line readings) unhinges the higher ambitions of this enterprise; at almost no point does his performance mesh with what the rest of the movie is doing. Another problem is the clunky storytelling, including the strained use of the narrator-hero (David Thewlis) as an identification figure, and an even unlikelier use of Val Kilmer as the doctor’s drunken assistant. John Frankenheimer is credited as director, but given the scrambled multiple agendas at play here, he seems to function more like a bemused traffic cop. With Fairuza Balk, Marco Hofschneider, and Temuera Morrison. (JR)

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