Bad Taste Times Two
Two types of cannibalism made moviegoers like me a bit queasy back in 1999. Even though more than ten years have passed, I still remember the disturbing aftereffects of Ravenous and EDtv. The former depicts the human flesh-eating variety of cannibalism while the latter shows how the mass media devours celebrities. In dealing with such unpleasant business, both films reach for laughs without much success. They are about as humorous as open-heart surgery.
In the case of Ravenous, screenwriter Ted Griffin, intrigued by the Donner party incident, wanted to explore an old Indian myth which claims that a person who eats the flesh of another steals that individual’s strength and spirit. (You are who you eat?). Griffin’s first produced screenplay attempts to merge dark humor with the gruesome subject of cannibalism, an almost impossible task. The story takes place in a snowbound fort in the Sierra Nevada during the 1850s, where an army captain (Guy Pearce, one of my favorite actors) fights his own hunger as well as a cannibalistic killer (Robert Carlyle). Director Antonia Bird (Priest), who’s a vegetarian (!), calls her film “an adventure story, a whodunit, and a satire.” Unfortunately, she stirred up an extremely unsavory concoction here.
Which pretty much sums up EDtv also. This too-soon imitation of The Truman Show was Ron Howard’s effort to dramatize the way celebrities are served up for mass consumption by television. Ed (Matthew McConaughey), a nondescript video store clerk, allows cameras to follow him 24 hours a day, every day. Even his most gross-out behavior seems to captivate the public, similar to today’s Jersey Shore. Like so many current celebrities, Ed becomes famous just for being famous. In the process, he almost loses his soul to the ratings devil. Besides being a comedy that’s not very funny, EDtv suffers from its own celebrity overdose. I think unknown actors should have been cast in the lead roles. McConaughey carries too much star baggage for believability here, as does Woody Harrelson, who plays Ed’s older brother. Ditto Jenna Elfman as his camera-shy girlfriend.
After watching EDtv and Ravenous, many viewers were left with a very bad taste in their mouths. Both films are available now on DVD, so consider yourself warned. You’re welcome.
(20th Century Fox released Ravenous, a film rated “R” for considerable gore and strong language. EDtv was released by Universal Studios and is rated “PG-13” for sex-related situations, partial nudity and crude language.)