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Babel DVD Review

by Kam Williams


Tortoise-Paced International Adventure Available on DVD

This modern fable, set in the U.S., Morocco, Mexico and Japan, is a multi-layered morality play which only pays lip service to the Biblical scriptures from which it borrows its title. So don't expect any allusions to the book of Genesis, here, except for finding a few characters frustrated by language differences.

The story unfolds as a trio of self-contained plots, with the discrete stories initially interlocking like the strands of a braid. First, we meet Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchett) on vacation in Morocco and trying to inject some oomph into their listless marriage when their sightseeing bus is used for target practice by a couple of kids (Boubker Ait el Caid and Said Tarchani) with a rifle.


After Susan is shot in the shoulder, her emotionally-distant husband suddenly cares about her well-being. But because they're in the middle of the desert and miles away from medial care, getting his profusely-bleeding wife to a hospital proves to be a mammoth challenge.

Richard's phone call home to California introduces the second strand of the story. Without revealing Susan's dire straits, he simply asks their nanny (Adriana Barraza) to babysit the kids (Elle Fanning and Nathan Gamble) for a little longer than expected. But because her son is about to get married back in her native Mexico, the illegal alien takes the tykes with her South of the Border where some unanticipated complications ensue.


The third narrative, which takes place in Tokyo, revolves around the antics of Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), a deaf mute, who's been depressed since the day her mother committed suicide. The troubled teen has been acting out in a variety of inappropriate ways: by taking drugs, by drinking alcohol, by exposing herself to strangers, and by coming on to almost any guy who crosses her path, including a detective and her dentist.

This tortoise-paced picture takes its sweet time linking Chieko's sordid, self-destructive adventures with the question of whether Susan will survive and whether she and Richard will ever be reunited with their missing offspring. Unfortunately, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has a most infuriating knack for filling the screen with offensive imagery while making his audience wait for these loose ends to come together.

The feel-bad collage of unappealing images ranges from the shocking sight of a chicken having its head yanked off in front of unsuspecting children to that of a voyeuristic teenager masturbating to Chieko going public with her privates to lingering shots of wounded Susan's suffering as the life slowly ebbs out of her.

Not exactly what you'd call wholesome family entertainment.

Poor (0 star)
Rated R for graphic teen sexuality, expletives, animal cruelty, gruesome violence, female frontal nudity, mature themes, and underage drug and alcohol use.
In English, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, Berber, French, and sign language with subtitles.
Running time: 143 minutes Studio:
Paramount Home Entertainment

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