Monday, April 20, 2009
City of Ember (2008)
Movies made from books face the challenge of being true to the original story while still succeeding as movies. Usually, they are most successful when they jettison those parts of the story that do not serve the film. The astonishing Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) distilled events from the first three books in the Snicket series into a wildly entertaining film that inexplicably did not win the hearts of the millions of youngsters who read the books.
City of Ember begins compellingly; within minutes, you are absorbed in the story and its characters (all well-played, with Bill Murray relaxed and playful). An early scene in which the young citizens of Ember are assigned their jobs perfectly captures the look and feel of the imaginary world. And the film manages to sustain nearly this same level of interest for another hour, give or take.
The final third of the film, however, devolves into a play-by-play of the children's escape. And when they are finally free, a moment that should inspire awe passes so quickly that the credits are rolling before the viewer has taken it in. At only 90 minutes, the film could easily have taken five or ten more minutes to satisfactorily conclude. A missed opportunity, but still worth seeing.