JEANNE'S REVIEW

 

When the name of the film and its trailer do not generate any interest, the filmmakers have a very real problem. Forget that you have two major stars, Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton, to recite the poorly- conceived script --- it doesn't matter. "Our Brand is Crisis" is a total waste of time.

 

Bullock plays "Calamity" Jane Bodine, a self-exiled political strategist who is lured out of her retirement by the opportunity to once again face her nasty nemesis, Pat Candy (Thornton). They square off as opponents in the Bolivian presidential campaign. Candy's candidate is the front runner, and Bodine's guy is 28 points behind.

 

"Our Brand is Crisis" is billed as a "satirical comedy". Unfortunately, the distinct lack of humor is profound. When the screenwriter, Peter Straughan ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", 2011), must rely upon Bodine and her youthful proteges slinging gunk across a courtyard using her bra, and the hit-and-run death of a llama --- as seen in the ridiculous trailer --- for supposed entertainment, the screenplay has insurmountable issues.

 

Most of us are fully aware of the derisiveness and ugliness of political campaigns. Candy and Bodine will literally stop at nothing to achieve victory --- not for their employers, but for themselves. Their machinations are all a game, a very serious one, but a game nonetheless. And though "Our Brand is Crisis" is fictional, it is based on real events from the Bolivian presidential campaign of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, as depicted in the 2005 documentary of the same name by Rachel Boynton.

 

Director David Gordon Green has done nothing, however, to make any of these characters compelling, not even Bodine's new playmate, Eddie (Reynaldo Pacheco), a naive and hopeful young man who dreams of a better Bolivia for himself and others who reside in poverty. We see where Bodine's efforts are leading, and that her candidate is a total sleaze, but Eddie remains positive that things will change, until it is too late.

 

It's not enough to run around the set with ratty hair and runny makeup to elicit a worthy performance. Bullock looks like she's tired and suffering from altitude sickness, but her portrayal is weaker than even that. She remains flat throughout the entire movie, especially when Bodine is supposedly slyly outwitting Candy.

 

Thornton is always great playing the snake-in-the-grass, which describes Candy perfectly. But even he cannot interject any humor into this wretched script. His attempts at seducing Bodine are pathetic and increasingly annoying --- not amusing.

 

If moviegoers believe they will be treated to another Bullock outing a la "The Blind Side", they are in for a rude awakening. "Our Brand is Crisis" is not in the least entertaining, and possesses one of the worst and phoniest endings in movie history. It's difficult to fathom how this disaster even got made.

 

Opinion: HUGE Don't Bother!

 

DAVID'S REVIEW

 

The filmmakers of "Our Brand is Crisis" are hoping that American moviegoers will care about a South American election, and the competing campaign managers who represent their candidates. With Sandra Bullock starring and George Clooney producing, how can it fail? (Answer: see Jeanne's review).

 

Loosely based on a documentary of the same name by Rachel Boynton from 2005, "Our Brand is Crisis" is a one-note storyline that neither Bullock, nor her co-star Billy Bob Thornton, can salvage. It is not sufficiently funny to be entertaining, it simply becomes tedious very rapidly. With so many Americans apathetic about our own politics --- Donald Trump aside --- why would anyone care to watch a film about a Bolivian presidential contest, and one campaign guru pitted against another?

 

Most of the movie is relatively light-hearted, as we watch Jane Bodine (Bullock), nicknamed "Calamity" because of a previous disastrous campaign incident, urged out of her peaceful retirement to re-enter the fray against her hated old foe, Pat Candy (Thornton). She unsuccessfully copes with Bolivia's high altitude --- vomiting is the order of her day --- and she is initially speechless, allowing other members of her team to orchestrate the election strategy for Senator Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida).

 

These include Ben (Anthony Mackie), Nell (Ann Dowd) and Buckley (Scoot McNairy), none of whom distinguish themselves in the dull script. But this is Sandra Bullock, and she won't stay on the sidelines forever. When she ultimately takes charge, it becomes a battle on two fronts --- Jane and her client, Castillo, and Jane vs. Candy, where nothing is sacred. Bullock's character is slightly off her usual, sympathetic type, while Thornton's Candy is simply an arrogant, mean-spirited SOB.

 

As a comedy, "Our Brand is Crisis" mostly falls flat. There are occasional surprise moments, as when Jane shares an inspirational quote to Candy that she tells him is from the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but it is actually attributed to Hitler devotee, Joseph Goebbels. When Candy's presidential hopeful uses the quote in a debate, it proves to be his undoing. The screenplay by Peter Straughan needed a lot more of this type of refreshing chicanery.

 

At the film's end, "Our Brand is Crisis" makes an abrupt attempt at high drama when it shifts gears portraying a riot in the streets. Jane's candidate, now the election winner, has reneged on a campaign promise, leading to the vehement reaction by the locals. One of them, Eddie (Reynaldo Pacheco) has been a volunteer with Jane on Castillo's behalf. His idealistic hero worship of Castillo is shattered, as is his respect for her. No doubt director David Gordon Green ("Pineapple Express") envisioned this as a provocative, touching moment in his film. It doesn't fly because, once again, we don't care.

 

A late entrant onto Jane's staff is a young American woman fluent in Spanish, who goes only by LeBlanc, played by Zoe Kazan. She almost steals the show, but is given too little to do. I doubt it would have mattered.

 

Opinion: Don't Bother!