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07.13.2000

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flick pan | Smoke Signals 1998
Directed by: Chris Eyre
Written by: Sherman Alexie
Starring: Adam Beach, Evan Adams, Irene Bedard
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama, comedy

The verdict: / 5 the rating system explained

Plot synopsis Slice of life movie about two Indian (Native American) teens from a reservation. Victor and Thomas road-trip to Phoenix to retrieve the ashes of Victorís deceased father. Victor is a tough basketball playing kid, and Thomas is the nerdy one who (supposedly) has the ability to tell great stories. Along the way, they (supposedly) discover things about themselves as well as secrets of their pasts, and we (supposedly) learn about reservation life and frybread.

Review "Slice of life" is a term usually applied after viewing for a movie that went nowhere. When you canít figure out what the hellís going on, only to realize that, oh, nothingís going on, you call it a slice of life. Or "character piece." No exception here. Itís billed as the first movie produced and written by Native Americans -- great, itís quite an achievement to get a film made. And, from what Iím told, fairly accurate of reservation life. But it doesnít mean itís any good. Itís not necessarily bad, as in "Pallbearer" bad, or "Godzilla" bad, but Friday night laze viewing it ainít. Donít get on my case for being un-PC here. I rented this based on all sorts of great reviews. Boy, do critics have a completely different agenda in movie-watching. I guess "enjoyable," "entertaining," and "worth the rental fee" are three criteria that are absent from their judging lists. The storyís from a book, and you can tell. Itís full of (from what I gather) metaphors, but it just doesnít translate. Thomas is supposed to be a great storyteller, able to mesmerize all who hear his tales, but, frankly, heís just annoying, and his stories are ridiculous. Twenty minutes into this movie, the "ugggghs" and forceful sighs of "what the hellís going on?" could be heard in my living room (and not just from me). The story meandered with no discernible direction, and before I knew it, weíre watching a scene of Indians vs. Jesuits in a 2-on-2 basketball game. Huh? Unless you have a burning academic interest in reservation life, or youíre just out of Nyquil, donít get this movie. ĎCause I didnít.  
ó reviewed by Steve Loh 

Steve Loh writes in LA. Prior to that, he held every odd character-building job between college and grad school and life, including temping, driving a schoolbus, substitute teaching, and being a birthday party clown for the kids of rich Hollywood folk. Barney was his least favorite costume and, unfortunately, the most requested.  

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