Toronto 2011 Review: Todd Solondz's DARK HORSE

It’s vastly ironic that Dark Horse attempts to deconstruct the mythos of the “manchild” and its comedic properties, but really leaves Solondz looking like a petulant child having a tantrum.

rating: 1

Confession time: I have never seen a Todd Solondz movie before. This may alarm some of you and cause you to immediately discredit my opinion on this film, but that would be pointless. If anything, you could say that I can approach this film without any sort of bias in reference to his previous work. Everyone has to start somewhere and I went to see this movie with someone who was a huge Solondz fan and was desperately excited to see it. Turns out, we both shared the same opinion. What an awful, waste of a film, Solondz worst apparently. All I can say on that, is I really hope so, as this film has gone some way into putting me off watching any of his back catalogue. Dark Horse is Solondz€™ attempt at picking apart the sub genre of manchild comedy that has become so prevalent in modern Hollywood cinema. Actors like Kevin James and their ilk have made their career off of these men who have the maturity levels of children. Normally they are just silly and loveable with few genuine character flaws and they always get that girl that they€™re totally mismatched for in the end. Bollocks, I say and Solondz seems to agree. However, this is actually where Dark Horse fundamentally fails. It€™s a €œdark comedy€, and a deconstruction of a sub genre of pervasive comedy. It€™s just a shame that Solondz€™ vehemence for that genre overtakes the entire process and what we are left with is an entirely unfunny and cruel film. Normally, I€™m all for films that are cruel to their characters and tear them a new hole, but Dark Horse just seems to drift through, not even making an attempt to make the characters interesting or remotely likeable. All of the attempts at humour are awfully weak and incredibly obvious. Dark Horse tells the story of a guy who would rather buy rare Thundercat dolls online, than work in his cushy office job provided by his father played by Christopher Walken. I€™ve seen reviews where people have said Walken is amazingly sublime in this film, which is a ridiculous concept. He€™s playing an incredibly straight forward and boring role, which I suppose to some people for Walken to adopt is something of a revelation; but casting Christopher Walken in a dull and lifeless suburban father and small business owner is like casting Michael Clarke Duncan to play a white midget. Selma Blair shows up as the dosed up broad of the story who our main slob should have scared off after being so entirely repulsive and even asking her to marry him after their first date. This doesn€™t happen because, well, she€™s really rather desperate and clinging to a broken heart left in the wake of that €œperfect€ ex boyfriend. Obviously she has some time to kill in between Hellboy movies. Honestly, this film hurt my brain with how uniformly worthless it was, and writing about it is not the cathartic experience I was expecting it to be. It€™s like recounting that story that your friends keep making you tell that you really aren€™t proud of and really don€™t want to tell€ What makes the film even more disjointed and pointless is the majority of the second half of the movie taking place in the main character€™s head, to prove how completely unbalanced he is. Congratulations to Solondz for making some of the most banal and tiresome attempts to prove that a character is actually mentally challenged. Bravo. I€™ll just close this off by saying it€™s pretty goddamn atrocious that the only thing that makes you laugh throughout the running time of a so called €œcomedy€ comes from the guy sitting a row in front, snoring ridiculously loudly, drooling down himself. Oh, that and the projectionist who gets so bored he starts talking on his phone (I€™m sitting in the back row, centre) and I can hear every word of his conversation about his €œgoddamn ex and her kids€. Dark Horse is a film that starts off like it might be Solondz€™ most mainstream fare to date, and then suddenly he begins to realize that€™s what he is doing, which causes him to thrash around violently making the film a complete and utter misfire. It€™s vastly ironic that his approach to a film that€™s supposed to deconstruct the mythos of the €œmanchild€ and its comedic properties, leaves Solondz looking like a petulant child having a tantrum, rather than the masterful filmmaker he is often credited as being. All I can say is, this review doesn€™t even contain a miniscule fraction of the amount of disdain that Solondz seems to have for his audience while making this awful, waste of a film. (P.S. While the Solondz fan I know may have worded it a little more eloquently, with references to his previous work, he pretty much agrees with what I have to say€ Before you Solondz apologists and optimists start whining in the comments€)
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