Okay, this one was weird. I'd never seen a Buster Keaton movie before, so I was really looking forward to this. I was expecting something like the earlier Charlie Chaplin film we'd seen, only a different face. I fully expected to really like it, because Buster Keaton is a really famous name; practically synonymous with comedy.
This. Was. Stupid.
I hate to be so blunt, but there's just no other way to put it. The movie was WAY over the top, to the point where I was just rolling my eyes at the sheer dumbness. The others who were watching it were practically falling off their chairs laughing, but I just felt annoyed. I didn't think it was humorous at all.
The basic plot is that Buster Keaton is a train engineer in the South, and the Civil War breaks out so everyone rushes to enlist. The girl that Keaton's trying to woo is a flighty, brainless twit who tells him not to speak to her again until he's in a uniform. Nice. Of course, the rebel army won't enlist him and doesn't bother to tell him why, so he's left trying to figure out any possible way to become a soldier.
The Union troops meanwhile plot to steal his train (the titular "General") and drive it north, destroying bridges and tracks behind them to disable the rebels. But Keaton is having none of that because this is his train, dammit. So through a series of ridiculous and completely unbelievable hijinks he manages to chase the Union soldiers all over the South and foils their fell plot, winning his train back and earning a commission as a Confederate officer and the love of his airhead girlfriend. Hooray, happy ending.
Robin says I need more detail in this rant, so let's see. One of the dumbest events was when Keaton and the Twit (who was kidnapped by the Union soldiers since she was on the train when it was stolen) are escaping from the Union safehouse. She gets her foot caught in a steel bear trap, and Keaton pries it off her leg only to get it caught on his own. He gets free of it somehow and neither one has even the slightest scratch on them and continue to run away, right into the path of a bear. Of course. But nothing comes of it. They just change direction and exit, not pursued by a bear. Dumb. Ummm, what else. How about chopping wood and trying to throw it onto the wood car of the train so they'll have fuel, but every log misses the car, either because it falls short, goes too far, or lands right on the precariously balanced few that landed on the edge of the car and toppled them all off. DUMB. I can't think of any more specific examples. The whole thing was stupid, and I'm very irritated right now. I'm especially irritated because I can't find any reviews online who agree with me. I hate being alone in my opinions; it makes me feel like I'm wrong to feel the way I do. Why do 93% of the Rotten Tomatoes audience love this film when I hated it so much? Are they all dumber than me? Or am I stuck up and elitist?
I think what bothers me most about the wood chopping scene, for example, is the sheer waste of time nature of it. Slapstick comedy or not, this movie is about a train chase. Quit buggering around with throwing the wood all over the place! Get it on the train and get back to the chase! I wanted them to play it straight. I wanted an exciting chase movie. Giving this subject the slapstick treatment just seems really wrong. And it's made worse by the fact that this is based on a true story. The theft of The General and the subsequent chase to recover it actually happened! That's an exciting story. Why couldn't they have made a movie that told it like it was? Turning it into a slapstick comedy feels really disrespectful.
Next week is something called "Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans" which Robin assures me is not an Adam and Eve story. I have no idea what else it could possibly be about with a title like that though...guess I'll see in four days.