An Inglourious Basterdization

It was about midway through the opening titles when I stopped taking INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS seriously. Why does Tarantino insist on changing the font half a dozen times? More legitimate problems with the film itself arose after a promising opening scene (with Christoph Waltz, whose ability to pull off an SS officer fresh from a Hollywood backlot speaks to his talent as an actor) when Brad Pitt saunters onscreen as Basterd-leader Aldo Raine. Raine maintains a look of constipation throughout the entire film, but what is supposed to be a cocky smirk, along with a thick Tennessee accent (funny!) and a scar that wraps around his neck, is all the backstory we get on him and his eight Jewish minions, and it’s hardly enough to give them and their killing spree any credibility. They remain strangers; All we’re able to grasp about them is their brutality.

Their thirst for violence is matched only by the Nazi Army, which is led by a red-faced and whiny Hitler. While it may be satisfying to reduce the enemy to an infantile version of itself, it’s much too easy and hardly interesting. Furthermore, it removes all credibility from the storytelling and turns what was meant as a comical, blood-drenched farce instead into a stylized but exasperating effort in filmmaking, because throughout all the ridiculous and improbable situations, Tarantino still wants us to take him seriously. The movie is so gratuitously peppered with goofy accents (Mike Meyers’ British officer is straight out of AUSTEN POWERS) and goofy violence, you almost feel badly for Christoph Dreyfuss and Mélanie Laurent (as Shoshanna, the only likable character) for doing such a good job. The artificiality of nearly every element of the film is so distracting that by the time Hitler and Goebbels are shot to pieces – or the obviously rubber doll versions of them are – I had long since given up trying to make sense of what eventually revealed itself to be another teenage fantasy flick. While I wouldn’t go as far as David Denby in his New Yorker review and call Tarantino an embarrassment, I will say that if you’re making a film about Nazi Germany, having Tarantino play director is like sending in a boy to do a man’s job.