Kansas City

Bomb Rating: 

Since (Director Robert) Altman doesn't see it in his heart to have Harry Belafonte break into a rendition of the Banana Song, I say screw him.

I think that any reasonable person would have the sameexpectations that I do for a film starring Harry Belafonte. If he's going to be in the movie, there's got to be some point where he breaks into the Banana Song or the film is an utter failure.

And it's not exactly like Belafonte is playing a mutant space creature with two heads from the planet Xenon who doesn't know any English. He's Seldom Seen, a gangster in 1930s Kansas City. Seldom owns a jazz club called the Hey Hey Club and the hide of a white boy named Johnny O'Hara (Dermot Mulroney) who tried to steal some money from one of Seldom's gambling patrons. Let's be clear here: Seldom doesn't work in the jazz club; he owns the jazz club. He could break into the Banana Song any time he wanted.

This is a signature Robert Altman film in that it plays out like a slow-motion train wreck. Unless Altman has some incentive -- like his career is about to go down the toilet -- he insists on overindulging his fascination for pointless narrative (see "Pret a' Porter"), sending the film to a plodding, certain doom. And since Altman doesn't see it in his heart to have Harry Belafonte break into a rendition of the Banana Song, I say screw him.

The pointless narrative follows Johnny's wife, Blondie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) as she tries to get Johnny back by kidnapping a politician's (Michael Murphy) laudanum-addicted wife (Miranda Richardson). Apparently, someone suggested to Jennifer Jason that she down some laudanum herself and then try and repeat her "Hudsucker Proxy" schtick, because while her perfomance is not quite over-the-top, it remains unnervingly close. But given that fact, she too could have easily broke out into some kind of rendition of the Banana Song.

So nothing in the film was appealing, except its end when the credits finished, artificial light spread through the theater, daylight came and I got to go home.

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