Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Robert Cavanaugh, Tabu, Nathalie Auffret, Khalid Tyabji, Sidney Kean
Written by: Fred Fougea, Michel Fessler
Directed by: Fred Fougea
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, English, with English subtitles
Running Time: 90
Date: 09/21/2001
IMDB

Hanuman (1998)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Monkeyshines

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Most recent kids' movies, as well as kids' television, assume that the little tykes have no attention span whatsoever, not even lasting a half-second. So moviemakers careen their way through a half-baked story, throwing in as many talking robots, clattery chase scenes, shaky, screaming expositional scenes, and -- almost always -- somebody farting or getting kicked in the crotch. All at the speed of a Pentium Processor.

But seemingly out of nowhere comes this delightful movie fit for all ages called Hanuman. It's part Indiana Jones, part Rudyard Kipling, and part Nature Channel.

Beautifully shot on digital video in India, the film begins a little like Jean-Jacques Annaud's 1988 feature The Bear, which told the story of a live bear without any narration. Hanuman kicks off with just a little narration, explaining that our lead monkey named Hanuman, has fallen in love with a monkey princess, despite the fact that her father has betrothed her to another.

The two illicit lovers run off together just as a Scotsman (Robert Cavanaugh) returns to India to find out who's been swiping priceless monkey statues. The Scot also seeks his own true love, a beautiful Indian schoolteacher (Tabu) he knew in his youth, who has also been betrothed to another. And lo and behold if her husband-to-be isn't mixed up in some dirty deeds of his own.

At the same time, a mysterious hermit who lives on top of a hill and communicates with the monkeys lends a helping hand, and an even more mysterious green phantom pops in and out as well.

As directed by former photographer Fred Fougea, the film moves like a summer breeze, helped a great deal by Laurent Ferlet's exciting Indiana Jones-like score. Fougea gets extraordinary "performances" from the monkeys, probably by shooting tons of footage and finding the right "expressions" and moods to fit each scene. He also has an eye for space and composition, beautifully incorporating India's beautiful temples and landmarks into the story.

Though many of the story elements lean toward the cornball, the film still manages to refresh simply through its patience and sense of adventure. Parents who can coax their kids into attending such an "uncool" movie (i.e. not backed up by some toy company) will find a great time had by all.

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