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By Chris Barsanti | November 10, 2003

Okay, which idiot came up with the idea of casting Russell Crowe as Patrick O’Brian’s Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey in the film “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”? With his bleached-blonde hair tied in a sloppy ponytail, a chunky torso in need of several weeks of Atkins Diet discipline, and a coarse Australian accent, Crowe is the least likely British naval officer to sail the cinematic seas since Marlon Brando in “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

But whereas Brando camped up his performance with zany glee, Crowe lumbers and slumbers his way on-screen with so little gusto that he seems sedated. In fact, the whole film has a sedative effective. The action takes place on the HMS Surprise, but there is nary a surprise to be found anywhere here. The story is so connect-the-dots predictable that one can walk away from the film for 15 or 20 minutes at a time and return knowing exactly where the story is.

It seems as if every possible cliche and story twist from any seafaring picture of the past 80 years made its way into this flick (the storm at sea, the cannon battle, the us-versus-them conflicts between officers and ship crew). There are also a few new silly twists added including an anachronistic pitstop at the Galapagos Islands to take credit for Charles Darwin’s work and endless in-the-ribs/between-the-shoulder blades bickering between Captain Aubrey and the ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturing (played with prickly indifference by Paul Bettany) that makes the men seem as ridiculous as the old queens played by Rex Harrison and Richard Burton in “Staircase.” All that is missing is the white whale, although Crowe’s waistline suggests he was trying to fill that nautical void for us.

I will confess that after 30 minutes of this film, my mind began wandering away from the screen and after an hour I was yawning so loud that the gent
seated next to me at the screening offered to wake me in the event my eyelids surrendered. Had I been able to pay more attention to this hopelessly boring movie, there would be more insults and putdowns flung at those responsible for this mess. The fact that I didn’t bother to pay attention is, I fear, even more insulting than any wisecrack derived from watching the screen.

It took three studios (Universal, Miramax and 20th Century Fox) to produce this movie. Peter Weir, who once made intelligent and original films like “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and “Gallipoli,” directed it. I’ll gladly take the toy boat action of “Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd” instead.

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  1. Kyle D. says:

    To be brutally honest I do not know why this review was posted on metacritic let alone on the internet.

    I find it very frustrating that a film critic could not take this film seriously, let alone the one that post articles on websites. To be absublutly frank you have no authority to be posting a review of a movie if you cannot get your own personal bias out of it.

    It also makes me fear for the life of me of the nature next generational movie critic not being to take the slower films with the faster ones.

    I mean yes this move is slow, Russell Crowe does not look like a movie star in it.

    THIS IS A PERIOD FILM, if you are so juvenile to not recognize that then you might need to be switching careers. Do you honestly think people in the 1600s look as good as we do now?

    Russell Crowe is SAPOSE to look ugly for most of the film he has been in sea for 6 months and low on supplies and he is having to make hard decisions on what to do so naturally that should be reflected in his character according to Mise-en-scène, but you would not know anything about that.

    The fact that you spent half of your review apologizing for you un-ablilty to do your job proves how un-profcional you are. You could have explained why the pacing was unsatisfactory.

    The fact is that you as a review are are a mess, with no specific focus and no specific reasoning leads to absublutly distasteful review.

    I recommend that you remove this review from the internet immediately

  2. Mark Bell says:


    This review has been online for eight years and change. The “damage” is done. And no, I’m not going to pick on your grammar or spelling…

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