On paper Our Brand Is Crisis certainly sounded like all the stars had aligned for it to be a great movie. A political satire about wrapped around a plot that is fictionalized version of the actual real life 2002 Bolivian presidential election, starring a couple of well known Oscar winning Hollywood actors, released just around the time the United States presidential nominee games with the Democrat and Republican parties would be in full swing, produced by George Clooney of all people, it really seemed to have all the right ingredients to make for a compelling, perhaps even a bit smart little political film with some topical poignancy to it. Unfortunately the ugly truth is that all of that seems to have fallen apart in the execution phase and what you get instead is a complete disaster in every level.
This is one of those movies where you might read the brief plot synopsis, glance at the cast and find yourself thinking that this might actually be pretty interesting. After all, it’s not like Sandra Bullock is a horrible lead material, even if I personally don’t really find her acting appealing. And if it has Billy Bob Thornton in it, how bad could it possibly be? Well apparently pretty bad. It’s horribly dull as an underdog story, the rivalry between Billy Bob Thornton and Bullock in particular doesn’t work when it seems to be majorly one-sided. Thornton even has a bad habit of coming off smelling like roses and has an air of being above pettiness when compared to Bullock’s character. The biggest flaw by far is the quality of writing, which is so poor that it has no chance to do anything remotely intelligent or interesting with the premise. It’s extremely frustrating to sit through a movie when you can almost literally feel your brain cells terminate themselves as a form of protest over how boring and idiotic the script is.
To make matters worse, the movie keeps trying to add humor to the mix without ever achieving anything remotely amusing. All the jokes are pretty lowbrow and dumb that it’s hard to imagine who the target audience for them was meant to be. You have things like Bullock suffering from altitude sickness and throwing up during a meeting, puking at an inappropriate time is funny right? Then there’s a scene where the joke is a llama being run over just as they’re about to shoot a TV spot that was meant to use the animal as part of the campaign. And of course let’s not forget the completely idiotic sequence where Sandra Bullock instigates a reckless one-on-one drag race using campaign buses on a narrow country road against the main presidential race rival and his campaign team. It’s a scene that culminates in Bullock flashing her bare buttocks against the bus window as a vulgar taunt after they are winning the race, so you can see just the level of comedy they were going for. I completely get that it’s suppose to be wacky and humanize the cast and make you find the entire situation quite outrageous in a funny way, but it merely comes off as entirely superfluous scene with juvenile attempt at humor that is so awful that it makes you cringe as you watch it.
The final straw that breaks the camel’s back is the inherent tonal conflict that ruins any chance the movie might have had to maintain a consistent tone. The movie seem incapable to decide whether it wants to be a serious, thorny and provocative political movie or a lowbrow political satire with plenty of unfunny juvenile comedy in it to make it seem more appealing to the general audiences. The resulting product is one that is a complete mess as a movie. Especially when the ultimate pay off to the story is that Bullock’s own character, a supposed battle hardened veteran campaign strategist who has been doing this for years and knows how ugly politics really is, out of the blue develops a conscience and re-discovers her inner bleeding heart humanity after her candidate wins the election and immediately breaks his biggest campaign promise by inviting the International Monetary Fund to Bolivia to negotiate about country’s troubling fiscal situation. That, combined with the scene where she walks out of the car taking her to the airport and disappears into the massive crowd of angry citizens protesting the new government, as well as the whole notion of her subsequently starting a non-profit democratic grass roots organization feels entirely hamfisted and pretentious way to deliver some kind of inane message about the ugly face of politics. It’s about as subtle as a kick to the groin and feels just as disingenuous.
It’s a movie as awful as this that reminds me of why I usually steer far away from Sandra Bullock movies if I can help it. It’s also kind of sad to realize that the last time I can remember enjoying myself even a little while watching a movie starring Sandra was around sixteen years ago when Miss Congeniality came out.