Slumdog Millionaire


March 31, 2009|By CHRIS KALTENBACH

Starring Dev Patel, Freida Pinto. Directed by Danny Boyle. Released by 20th Century Fox. $29.95, Blu-ray $39.95. **** (4 STARS)

Slumdog Millionaire is the rare film that deserves all the accolades it has been receiving. With verve and panache, it transports American audiences to a world they've never experienced; makes it seem believable and wonderfully alive; presents us with characters we can identify with and, more important, root for; and leaves audiences craving more.

Salman Rushdie's curmudgeonly dismissal notwithstanding, Slumdog is not crammed with "impossibilities" - at least no more so than any other Hollywood drama (Has Rushdie seen The Reader?). Rather, it's filled with possibilities of enduring love, joyful happenstance and triumph in the face of the worst odds. Of course, the greatest odds the movie defied were those against a modestly budgeted film, set and filmed in India, becoming a box-office success and practically sweeping the Oscars.

Dev Patel, the only major cast member not born in India (he's a native of England), is Jamal, a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Because he's a member of India's lower caste, it's assumed he'll drop out of the contest quickly. But Jamal has been through a lot in his life, and it's those experiences that enable him to keep advancing and that provide him the opportunity to reconnect with his love, the beautiful but forlorn Latika (Freida Pinto). Sure, no one believes in him, especially not the police or the smarmy show host (Anil Kapoor), who figures he must be cheating. But Jamal believes in himself, and that's all that matters.

Also in stores today: Marley & Me (20th Century Fox, $29.95, Blu-ray $39.95): Marley's a big bruiser of a yellow lab who chews furniture, cowers at lightning and lumbers through life with all the grace of a runaway Sherman tank. He's also absolutely devoted to his owners, John and Jenny (Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston). That's the heart of this pitch-perfect adaptation of newspaper columnist John Grogan's book: It understands the unbreakable bond between dog and owner, and embraces it without reservation.

Other releases: Chinese director Wong Kar-Wai's lush Happy Together (Kino International, $29.95); 1960s beach-blanket films are affectionately parodied in Stomp! Shout! Scream! (Indican Pictures, $24.95).

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