Trapped in a bland life

April 30, 2004|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

In the Pixar short Knick Knack, a snowman trapped in a snowglobe longs to join the swim-suited figurines from "Sunny Miami" or "Sunny Palm Beach." That's roughly the plight of the title character in Noi, a bald, pale 17-year-old on an isolated Icelandic fjord who settles for hot beaches on his View-Master.

Alienated from classmates and teachers alike, he fritters away his "wonderboy" I.Q., cutting class and goofing off until his school throws him out. His grandmother's idea of counseling is a trip to a fortune-teller; his alcoholic father's notion of help is to take him for a drink.

No wonder Noi often retreats to a basement hideaway.

The writer-director, Dagur Kari, has a born filmmaker's eye - he finds contrasts in landscapes that go only from off-white to white. He peps up the banal living-places of resigned or frustrated characters with everything from horrid green wallpaper to a spilled bucket of blood, and he respects his peoples' various shades of rebellion and melancholy.

Best of all, he has a merry prankster's appetite for banana-peel plot turns. When a pretty urban girl goes to work at the town's gas station-diner, Noi dreams of playing Clyde to her Bonnie.

But the comedy and drama run thin. Noi is finally about feeling claustrophobic in one's native environment.

What it says in 88 minutes Knick Knack managed to say in four.


Starring Tomas Lemarquis

Directed by Dagur Kari

Rated PG-13

Released by Palm Pictures

Time 88 minutes

Sun Score **1/2

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