Breakfast of Champions

             Certain authors defy filming. Kurt Vonnegut Jr is one. With the
     exception of the superlative 1981 TV adaptation of his short story         
Who Am I This Time?, the screen versions of his works have been
     unable to capture the oddball characters and bizarre situations that
     he creates via specific language. Yes there are some who praised
SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE (1972), but just as many found it lacking.
     I'm certain this latest adaptation will also find supporters as well as
     detractors. One does have to give writer-director Alan Rudolph and
     star Bruce Willis credit for trying. In seeking to find a filmic equivalent
     for Vonnegut's decidedly surreal landscape and characters, they both
     gamely try to inject verve and energy into the proceedings.

             Willis plays car salesman Dwayne Hoover, a man who is
     convinced he is going crazy. Surrounded by his neurotic wife (an
     underused Barbara Hershey), who spends her days watching television,
     and his sexually ambiguous son George (Lukas Haas looking like the
     spawn of Wayne Newton and Liberace), an aspiring lounge singer with
     a rabbit fetish who calls himself Bunny, it isn't any wonder that
     Dwayne often puts the barrel of a loaded gun into his mouth with
     the full intention of pulling the trigger. His coworkers are an equally
     loony lot: there's the cross-dressing Harry (Nick Nolte) and the
     loyal secretary Francine (Glenne Headley) with whom Dwayne furtively
     has been carrying on an affair. In separate plot strands that eventually
     all weave together, Albert Finney plays an almost forgotten fiction
     writer who is selected by an eccentric millionaire (Ken Campbell)
     to be honored at an arts festival and Omar Epps plays a newly
     released convict who aspires to Dwayne's life merely because his
     name, Wayne Hoobler, sounds so much alike.

             There's a zany quality that is maintained throughout and for
     that Rudolph gets kudos. But the genuine laughs in this supposed
     comedy are few and far between. Willis struggles gamely to create
     a three-dimensional figure and nearly succeeds. This is a far cry from
     his action hero mode and he once again proves that there is more
     to him that just that screen persona. Headley has a few good
     moments as does Finney but poor Barbara Hershey is straddled with
     a nothing part and the sight of Nick Nolte in red chiffon making out
     with his off-screen companion Vicki Lewis and later in green tights
     and a grass skirt are ones, frankly, I wish I hadn't seen. They are
     burned in my memory and nearly wiped out the recollections of
     the actor's superior work in
AFFLICTION. Virtually wasted in
     cameos are Jake Johannsen, as a Bogart-like manager who develops
     an odd association with Haas' Bunny, Buck Henry, Will Patton,
     Owen Wilson and Chip Zien.

             If you must indulge in this
     so only to experience the work of Willis, Headley and Finney. Otherwise,
     you can pass on this non-nutritious outing

Rated:  R
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.