April 6th, 2009

Oh *hell* no!

So you don't have to: Fat Man and Little Boy

I didn't take the time this weekend to say that on Saturday I watched one of the worst movies I have actually watched from start to finish. Fat Man and Little Boy is a movie set at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project, featuring John Cusack and Paul Newman. "John Cusack! Manhattan Project! How could I not know this movie?" says me. Turns out here is how: it had no redeeming features. No, really. None. They cast a languid man as J. Robert Oppenheimer. Languid. I mean it. They didn't give any of the interesting physicists interesting parts, and John Cusack played Buck Weaver again. I'll bet you didn't know Buck Weaver worked on the Manhattan Project! (Note: I recognize that this is possibly only comprehensible to my folks, laurel, and snurri. Still! They gave him a different name but he dressed exactly the same as when he was Buck Weaver! And showed up carrying a bag of baseball bats! And put a baseball through Leslie Groves's window!)

I actually feel happy for Paul Newman's family, because he was trying to summon up the mean to play Groves, and he just couldn't do it. When Robin was doing a Darth Vader voice when he was three, he was more successful at Big Mean Scary Guy than Paul Newman trying to play Leslie Groves. This bodes well for his general lack of meanness, maybe? Later I thought about it and decided that if you absolutely had to cast Paul Newman at that age in a movie relating to the physics of that era, he would do for Bohr. I know Bohr was running around Copenhagen and passing out in planes on the way to England and like that rather than hanging around bugging Oppie. But still, they had scenes set in Washington, DC, and anyway having random scenes in Copenhagen or London could not possibly have made this movie worse. Having random scenes in Argentina or Burkina Faso could not possibly have made this movie worse.

You know what was the really astonishing accomplishment of this movie? They managed to get some facts correct without having the least notion of their context or meaning. So by not getting everything wrong they made some things worse, because it was mostly not the kind of bad that was howlingly funny. It was just sort of limp. It was released in 1989, which puts its creation right smack in that part of the 1980s when nobody had to justify what a movie was about if it featured vague nervousness about nuclear weapons. It was like if someone ever asked the writers or the director why the viewer should care, they repeated slowly, "But they're making a nuclear bomb. One that's nuclear. And a bomb. Which is nuclear."

Seriously. You just don't need to watch this movie.