Knee-jerk review: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

1. Tedious, bordering on boring.
2. Technically, it's dazzling. Sumptuous production design spans 60 years with the kind of detail that suggests no expense was spared.
3. The New Orleans setting (taking place in the hours before Katrina hits, no less) is certainly trendy and fresh, but the flashback structure seems needless in a film that already feels overlong by 45 minutes. The same goes for the backstory involving Julia Ormond. And the business with the giant train station clock that runs backward. It's all too much, too indulgent. None of the subplots and narrative tangents really feel necessary. They just all sort of lay there.
4. The special effects that age Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett (making them seem at times younger and older) is impressive, to say the least.
5. Which is the problem with the movie. It's a clever gimmick (two lovers: one getting older, one getting younger) in search of a story.
6. Nothing really happens. It's all very episodic, a connection of moments without any real conflict or emotion to raise the stakes. Bad things happen and you probably won't even care.
7. Instead, you might be looking at your watch.
8. The submarine encounter is pretty cool, however.
9. We can't decide if Taraji P. Henson was brilliant or a complete ham.
10. It's just too long. Rambling and sprawling.
11. That said, the last 15 minutes or so are pretty poignant.
12. Let's recap: director David Fincher's best film remains 1995's Seven. If you haven't seen it, go do so immediately. Seven and Silence of the Lambs are the definitive serial killer movies - it's hard to imagine anyone ever finding a way to offer a fresh take on that genre. A close second is 1999's visionary Fight Club, followed by 2002's sweaty Panic Room. Number four would be 1997's The Game and then last year's Zodiac. That leaves Benjamin Button in the slot just above 1993's unsatisfying Alien3.

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