RATING: 1.5 stars (out of 4)
Even if you take the Bible literally, you’ve got to admit that the Noah’s Ark story is a little bit on the kooky side. It’s a tough one to display visually without making it look ridiculous. Noah does its best to hide away the awkwardness of every animal on the planet boarding a giant cruise ship two by two, but can’t avoid it entirely.
So in between steady, super-serious Russell Crowe monologues or stare-off-into-space moments of contemplation, there is some unintentionally funny business. Snakes and lizards racing to score a corner cabin. Yaks and grizzlies cuddling with aardvarks and gazelles to pass the night. Noah proclaiming to his brethren that they must be fruitful and multiply–meaning a whole lot of incest will be in order.
At least the movie answers the question of how Noah was able to build such a giant boat all by himself. It turns out that in pre-flood times, rock monsters just like the one from The Neverending Story were around to serve as manual labor and security. As it turned out, those guys really should have unionized.
Maybe there is no way to make a really good and convincing about Noah’s Ark that you can take any more seriously than Evan Almighty. Even though this gritty, dry take on the tale flops and moves so slowly that you end up feeling stranded and seasick for weeks upon weeks, you can appreciate the craft behind it. That is mostly to do with the man at the helm of the sinking ship.
Darren Aronofsky, the genius director who made Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and Black Swan, pulls another The Fountain this time out, overindulging his grand aspirations for the artiest of arty art that belly flops into pretentious nonsense.
Aronofsky is incapable of creating any image less stunningly beautiful than Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman making out, and he lets his visual instincts fly free to dazzle you. Space-satellite images of the world covered in hurricanes. Peyote-like visions in which God assigns Noah his daunting mission. Vistas showing the ark rising gradually out of a forest cove. Floods and rock monsters double-teaming to take out angry mobs of raining men (hallelujah?) descending on the departing boat. Noah and his wife (Jennifer Connelly) huddled in picturesque heart-t-hearts aboard the rocking ship.
Water, water everywhere, and not a stop to think.
Crowe’s acting is hamstrung by his ridiculous, mostly-shouted dialogue, punctuated with Connelly’s cockeyed, WTF reaction shots. And those animals! Even though beasts of all stripes and levels of the food chain are impeccably rendered by CGI, they come off as punishingly adorable as the cuddly felines on the Hello Giggles kittie cam.
The main problem with Noah isn’t even its silliness. It’s that it’s long, yet neither strong nor down to put the friction on. There is not a whole lot of story on deck, and stretching it to nearly two and a half hours puts it through unnecessary strain. You get the feeling that those rock monsters, which inevitably all perish before the flood finishes its punishment, got off easier than the survivors. At least they didn’t have to endure the rest of the movie.
Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Nick Nolte, Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins. Written by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel. Directed by Aronofsky. Rated PG-13. 138 minutes.