Watching "Alexander" is like going on a first date, noticing in the first five minutes that your date hums to herself and suffers from bouts of involuntary drooling, then realizing that perhaps those tickets to the unabridged reading of War and Peace weren't such a hot idea.
The movie opens with Old Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) wandering around a cheap-looking set in front of a backdrop of Alexandria, reciting tales of Alexander to his scribes. Immediately, savvy filmgoers will smell trouble. For starters, Old Ptolemy seems to be ad-libbing. Further, he tells us things that a more skilled filmmaker would be showing us. Third, as the movie progresses he shows up frequently, holding the pieces together like cinematic duct tape.
Though young Alexander (Connor Paolo) is being groomed to be king by his scheming mother Olympias (Angelina Jolie), all he really wants to do is fight with daddy and talk about his feelings. After another quick visit with Old Ptolemy, we cut right to grownup Alexander (Colin Farrell), who's ascended to the throne and shakes around his long, blond locks like he's starring in a Head & Shoulders commercial.
Alexander's first order of business as king is to get embroiled in a land war in Asia. The battle scenes are large and expensive and feature more blood, chaos and carnage than an NBA game on Family Night. However, since we don't know Alexander half as well as we know Old Ptolemy at this point, we don't really care.
Nothing forges male bonds like sweaty warfare in armored skirts and "Alexander" has more gay sexual tension than a Promise Keepers' meeting. Alexander loves his best buddy Hephaistion (Jared Leto), in that "ancient Greek" kind of way. Their lengthy "look we're almost kissing" dance pauses only when Alexander finally attempts to produce an heir and treats his hastily-selected wife Roxane (Rosario Dawson) to what is undoubtedly the Worst Lay Ever.
Most bad movies eventually provide some relief by ending, but "Alexander" stubbornly refuses to give up the ghost. At one point, Alexander takes an arrow to the chest and we dare to hope the final credits will roll. However, he emerges bandaged but alive - at which point in my screening a perceptible wave of nausea flowed through the audience. It continues: People die. Emotive speeches are made. Then Old Ptolemy reappears (uh oh) to drone on incessantly about What It All Means. At this point, that nausea I mentioned became materially measurable.
Whenever the result of a movie involves broad-jumping puddles of vomit on your way out of the theater, one can say confidently that a failure has been had.
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