Passion in the Desert

Bomb Rating: 

(This movie) involves a captain in Napoleon's army wandering into the desert and finding a leopard to hang out with for awhile. You still think I'm making this up, don't you?

If I'm writing TV Guide descriptions, the one for this movie is simple: "Guy marries desert leopard." If I'm hoping for a movie that moves beyond that somewhat limited premise, I stuff that leopard with a four-foot midget, get a computer to make its mouth talk like that dog on the Taco Bell commercials and hand Disney a new cash cow.

Unfortunately, first-time director Lavinia Currier harbors no such inspiration. A cute talking leopard, after all, has the potential to carry a story that's at least remotely interesting. Currier's take, however, involves a captain in Napoleon's army wandering into the desert and finding a leopard to hang out with for awhile. You still think I'm making this up, don't you?

Currier is consumed with a couple of things: The first is the beauty of nature and the second is the impact of place. Currier is undoubtedly one of those people who wanders around the country taking photos of mountains and hills and bushes and rocks then returning home and making her friends look at her incisive slides, completely unaware that they'd be plunging turkey thermometers into themselves if not for the welcome distraction of the seven-layer dip. Look, Lavinia, if I want the desert, I'll go to the desert. If I want to see animals, I'll go to the zoo. If I want to see a good story, however, I'll be real sure to avoid any of your future work.

As for the impact of place, I don't know a god damn desert in the world that's lined with plush chairs, arm rests with cupholders, and teenagers uttering cryptic pearls of wisdom. Although dropping a few morons in the middle of a desert is a good idea in principle, including more sand than dialogue means that we're likely to drop dead from boredom long before these morons drop dead from heat stroke.

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