The Island of Doctor Moreau (1996) — A once-in-a-generation disaster

“I have seen the devil in my microscope, and I have chained him.”

Justin’s rating: Mmm… Rabbit Stew

Justin’s review: Great Zeus’ thunderfarts, this movie is weird. And not weird in an original, thought-provoking way. Weird in the sense that you’ve been suckered into seeing one of the old carnie freak shows when you were sort of expecting a trapeze act. “Unnerving,” is the word I’m looking for.

Lost at sea, stuffy Brit Douglas (David Thewlis) is rescued by the ever-ambiguous Val Kilmer (who plays Montgomery), and brought to a remote island where some strange, freaky stuff is happening. Despite owing Montgomery nothing short of his life, Douglas turns out to be a rotten guest; he breaks out of his room, hits on a strange beautiful girl, and makes some disturbing discoveries. For some reason, Douglas isn’t killed when he finds the evil Dr. Moreau (Marlon Brando) out, so he assumes that gives him full rights to openly denounce Dr. Moreau on Moreau’s home turf. Yeah, that’s smart thinking pal. Might as well go into 1943 Berlin and start smacking Hitler around, see if that gets you places too.

As X-Filey as the film begins, it soon takes a turn for the morbidly grotesque. Turns out this island is inhabited by all numbers of half-human, half-animal creatures, a lot of which don’t particularly like the fact that Dr. Moreau has unnaturally advanced them up the evolutionary scale. These manimals aren’t all that scary (once you’ve seen Catwoman, this is nothing), but they are quite bizarro. Most notably is Dr. Moreau’s “Mini-Me” (which inspired both the Austin Powers 2 spoof and the South Park monkey man), which just begs to be explained. He’s not quite a dwarf, he’s like some kid’s botched attempt at drawing the devil as a fetus.

It only gets stranger from here, folks. Gone are Marlon Brando’s salad days of The Streetcar Named Desire or even The Godfather. Heck, compared to this movie, Corleone is an Olympic triathalon gold-winner. Dr. Moreau is a grossly obese bald man who wears a mumu, black sunglasses, frilly hats, and heapings of white makeup. Essentially, he’s a less attractive version of Jabba the Hut as a Nobel Prize winner. Once he makes his first on-screen appearance, it’s impossible to take him or this film seriously any longer. With Brando’s glory days long gone and numerous reports from movie sets that he’s a cantakerous fool throwing his weight around (pun intended), why doesn’t he just fade quietly instead of throwing in brief appearances that will get him mocked through his next life as well?

Would you believe, it just gets nuttier? Brando and Kilmer use the second half of the movie to out-overact each other. Moreau’s excuse is a megalomatic spirit, Montgomery’s is his drug habit. About the only interesting way to see this movie would be at a party, assigning points every time one of the two leads does something that would get them committed to a mental asylum in any civilized country.

This is one of those rare films that has nearly unanimous critical and popular hatred bearing down its neck. Our excuse for watching this cesspit? Not much, unless you need another movie in your life moralizing that “tampering with nature is bad, unless it’s to sprinkle salt on icy roads so we don’t slide to work.”

Didja notice?

  • This movie has a serious grudge against rabbits, which have their necks broken, and bodies mauled and dismembered
  • New law: movies that feature man trying to communicate and understand animals, manimals, or cavemen should be barred from the public as incredibly boring

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