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MOVIE REVIEW: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

Shot in San Diego, it's interesting but underwhelming

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
Rates a C-

Courtesy Photo

My friend claims I contradict myself in my reviews. He saw me on Fox5 TVsaying, “What happened to movies with one word titles like Tootsie and Jaws?” This was in reference to the title Get Him to the Greek. He left a message saying, “You and I have talked in great detail about how much we hate action pictures with one word titles.”

He’s correct. Action pictures or romances that have a one word title that sounds generic, I don’t care for. I mean, does anyone even remember what the movies Knowing, Quarantine, Armageddon, or Fear are even about?

Werner Herzog, the director and co-writer of My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, is the same person that last year gave us the Nicolas Cage movie The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call--New Orleans. Both films, like

their titles, disappointed me.

Herzog films sometimes remind me of David Lynch's (who is the executive producer here) in their strangeness. They remind me of Tim Burton films in the sense that they have brilliant scenes, but the final product is never satisfying.

This film is loosely based on the 1979 story here in San Diego, about an actor who goes nuts and stabs his mother to death. In this fictional story, the actor goes to Peru and after refusing to river raft with friends (all of whom die), and he becomes convinced God talks to him.

And when a person goes wacky, and they’re using a sword in a Greek tragedy that involves the murder of mom…well, things are only going to get worse. You do get to see how some of these crazy cult leaders can actually acquire a following. This guy is good looking and charismatic, and even his fiancé has trouble leaving him when he’s clearly gone bonkers.

You can see signs of nuttiness in his family. His mom is wacky, played nicely by Grace Zabriskie, a David Lynch regular (I remember her from Norma Rae, and the mom in An Officer and a Gentleman). In real life, Zabriskie has some great art work at the ArtHaus gallery in L.A. But I digress.

The uncle is a racist ostrich farmer played by Brad Dourif, who started his film career playing the stutterer in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (a long movie title I like); who lost the stutter to do the voice of Chucky in Child’s Play.

These cult actors and Oscar nominees, also have Michael Shannon in the lead (remember him in Revolutionary Road and Vanilla Sky?) I think he’s amazing, as he slowly goes crazy, staring into the camera at times in a way that is worrisome. He’s also got a few interesting catch phrases (“razzle dazzle” which would’ve been a better title for this film). The interesting bits of dialog make me wish the movie wasn’t so inconsistently compelling and self-indulgent.

Chloe Sevigny pops up as the fiancé; with all the flashbacks they show, you wonder why her and the play director even bothered with this guy that was ruining the play (even when he wasn’t in it anymore, but just watching from the crowd).

Willem Dafoe actually plays one of the normal people (and probably his 10th police detective on film, which might rival Dourif, who often plays cops).

Verne Troyer even makes an appearance in an odd scene (I thought Mini Me only did Mike Myers movies).

Regarding the animals performances in the film – I found the pink flamingoes did a wonderful job, but the ostriches seemed forced and one went over-the-top trying for a laugh when he snatched reading glasses out of a front pocket.

I have a friend that travels around the world, and he always annoys me in movies when he says “I’ve been there,” at some exotic location on the screen. Anyone in San Diego will be able to say that, as there are lots of scenes in Ocean Beach, downtown, and Balboa Park (and you’ll notice the convention center when they’re supposed to be in Canada).

It bothers me so much that Herzog can be so interesting with his visuals, but can’t make a great picture.

I found it so interesting when the camera follows a Quaker Oats can down the driveway, or a basketball placed in a tree in Balboa Park. Another interesting scene involves a gospel song playing from a portable radio is powerful.

And just as I found the lizards in Bad Lieutenant fascinating, so were the flamingoes.

The first half hour of this had me enthralled, but then it got to the point where I wanted to take the sword they kept showing, and commit hari kari.

I wondered if the original San Diego story from 1979 would’ve been more interesting. Or a film that combines that murder, along with the 16-year-old girl that shot up a school across the street from her, that same year here. After killing two, wounding nine (including a cop), she casually explained why she did it.

“I don’t like Mondays.” It inspired a Boomtown Rats song, why not a Herzog movie?

Only hardcore Herzog/Lynch fans, or film students, should bother with this movie. Oh, and pizza delivery guys. They don’t get in many movies that aren’t X rated, but they sometimes sneak into places they shouldn’t be (the classroom in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and past the police tape into a hostage negotiation in this film).

I’m giving it a C-.