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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

DVD review: "The Darwin Awards" (2006)

The awards of the title – an Internet institution and series of paperbacks – are a dubious honour bestowed annually on people who cause their own deaths in idiotic ways (thereby ensuring they won't pass on their inferior genes). Whether 100% of the cases are true is irrelevant – the point is there are plenty of dummies accidentally doing themselves in and acknowledging the dumbest is a neat idea. But how do you turn it into a movie?

Short answer: with a plot as outlandish as one of the famous last deeds it celebrates, likeable leads, memorable cameos and an eclectic, energetic soundtrack.

Long answer: Michael Burrows (Joseph Fiennes) is an ex-criminal profiler whose tendency to faint at the sight of blood lets a poetry-obsessed serial killer escape and gets him sacked from the police. A Darwin Awards fanatic, he convinces an insurance company to let him search for common factors in the cases, so as to identify likely victims of their own stupidity.

Burrows is paired with Siri (Winona Ryder), a kinda jaded, kinda sweet claims assessor. He's also shadowed by a documentary maker (Wilmer Valderrama) who's happy to film every aspect of Michael's life, but refuses to lend assistance, even in emergencies.

Criss-crossing America, the trio encounter situations that will be familiar to DA afficionados – like a greedy office worker crushed beneath a vending machine while trying to pilfer a drink, and an unfulfilled redneck (David Arquette) who makes a bid for TV glory by strapping a rocket to his Chevy. They also run into Adam and Jamie from "Mythbusters" (as army disposal salesmen), all four members of Metallica, and Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Songs by everyone from Billy Joel to Judas Priest to the Violent Femmes keep things rockin' along.

Final word: There should be an award for beaut little quirky flicks like this!

[Australian DVD release dates: out now for rental, on sale November 14]


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