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The Cider House Rules

Every generation a movie comes along that makes us take a hard look at ourselves, makes us feel warm and glad to be alive, makes us fall in love with people we've never met and reminds us why movies are so wonderful.

The Cider House Rules isn't one of those movies, but it sure wants to be.

Not that it's bad, it's not. It's a nice movie. Everyone does a nice job. They hit their cues. The kids are all properly pretty or pathetic. The moral dilemmas are just present enough to seem important, but without actually bothering anyone. However, it's about as exciting as eating soggy, domestic cheese.

It is very by-the-book, and I was able to uncover the book and will now share it with you.

The Rules to making The Cider House Rules:

1) No ugly kids allowed. Even thought much of the movie takes place in a 1940's orphanage, every child looks like he or she just came from the beauty salon where they got a nice manicure.

2) No surprises. There isn't a darn thing that happens in this movie that is unexpected. The 'journey' that the main character goes through is about as obvious and predictable as my mom's meatloaf. Every plot twist -- oh wait, there are no plot twists.

3) Everyone gets a moment to act. The story is moving along when suddenly, SLAM! Time for everyone to sit quiet and let character X have his or her 'moment' to show what a good actor they are. Lame.

4) Be important. Everything that everyone says is 'important.' And they make sure you know that. Whatever, I've got something 'important' for them to look at.

5) Be true to the book, at all costs. The movie is based on the 5,000-page epic and beloved book written by John Irving. It's like, the most beloved book ever written or something and it's a very special and important book. So they convinced Mr. Irving to write the script as well, and he, being the author of the book, was very faithful to his novel. Problem is, novels make boring movies. You can do stuff in a novel (character introspection, scenic description, setting the mood) that you really can't do as well in a movie. So some scene that may have been very powerful in the book because of all the great subtext and whatnot comes across as a slow, dull scene in dire need of a car crash or meteor.

Not to say that this is a very bad movie. As I said, it's nice. But it got nominated for 7 Academy Awards, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. There were all sorts of slow, touching flicks released this year just as good as this one, but they didn't have the Miramax Oscar blitz working full-throttle for them, so they didn't get nominated. The only nomination the movie deserved was Michael Caine, who gave a wonderfully understated performance as the only multi-dimensional character in the film.

And that's the main problem. I didn't care about anyone. I didn't care about Tobey Maguire. I didn't care about Charlize Theron (except for the couple of scenes where she was partially naked). I didn't care about Delroy Lindo. I didn't really care about the movie. And I just don't see the reason to make a movie where the ultimate message is "There's nothing you can do to change your fate, just shut up and be happy you're not dead."

Real uplifting.

The Cider House Rules gets 3 Babylons. As a quiet period drama about an orphanage of cute kids, its fine, but as an endearing tale of man's quest for personal discovery, it falls a few steps short of Galaxy Quest.

Editor's Note:

Rule # 6: The Critic wouldn't know a sweet and touching movie if it bit him in the ass.

Not that this is a sweet and touching movie, but his idea of a sweet and touching film worthy of Academy Award Nominations is Deep Blue Sea.

The Cider House Rules
Rated: PG-13
Directed By: Lasse Hallstrom
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Michael Caine, Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd, Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla and Buckwheat.

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