That Sugar Film
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated: Suitable for all audiences.
Theater: Mall of America.
Here’s a slight food documentary that plays like “Super Size Me for Dummies.” Australian filmmaker Damon Gameau examines the health implications of the highly sweetened diet that far too many of us consume. Downing the daily 40 teaspoons of sugar eaten by typical Ozzies while keeping up his exercise routine, he finds that his two-month experiment damages his liver, adds 4 inches of fat across his waist, and cuts his ability to concentrate. There are amusing appearances by Hugh Jackman and Stephen Fry, and the aim of Gameau’s advocacy is well intended, but it is not groundbreaking news. His repeated focus on entertainment suggests the film was made for kids in middle school. Repeated anonymous imagery of obese women and men doesn’t add much to the world’s well of wisdom. The shots of a mini-sized Gameau climbing through his own nose to explore his sweet-weakened brain is beyond absurd. This is a film like a highly sugared treat, the intellectual equivalent of empty calories.
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rating: R for obscenity, sexual references, brief nudity and mild violence.
A middle-age married man confronting a long-repressed sexual awakening sounds like the stuff of a Lifetime melodrama. Yet “Boulevard” has heft, thanks to a sensitive performance by its star, Robin Williams, in his last film role. It’s also undeniable that the film’s subtext of a life lived in secret pain cannot be read without an added pang, given the circumstances of the actor’s suicide. Williams plays Nolan, a man so conditioned to the denial of joy that he doesn’t know what to do when confronted with its possibility. Everything changes during one late-night drive when Nolan almost runs over a young sex worker named Leo, for whom the older man quickly develops a chaste obsession. Though the story’s contours sound unremarkable, “Boulevard” manages to defy viewers’ expectations in small yet satisfying ways that do not disrupt the predictable outcome.
Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post
The Stanford Prison Experiment
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: R for language including abusive behavior and some sexual references.
“The Stanford Prison Experiment” is a straightforward dramatization of the 1971 experiment of the same name. Nothing fancy here — the filmmakers just let the material unfold because these events are so gripping and so creepy, and ultimately so dispiriting in their implications, that no embellishment was necessary. The study involved 24 students who were randomly assigned to be either prisoners or guards. A mock prison was set up for the purpose of understanding how the roles of guard and prisoner influence human personality. Though most of the drama takes place inside the mock prison, there’s another drama, too, in which the experiment’s conductors find themselves being affected and drawn into the prison mentality. That this was a controversial experiment, whose findings have been the subject of debate ever since, comes as no surprise. But history, before and since, suggests that it encapsulates an essential truth.
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
A LEGO Brickumentary
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Theater: Mall of America and St. Anthony Main.
This film is exactly what the title suggests, a documentary about the Lego company and the little brick building toys that have been around since the 1950s. The film has the built-in interest of anything that explains the origins of a ubiquitous product. Still, unless you are desperate to know more about Lego than you could ever get in a Wikipedia entry, the film will seem about an hour too long. If people love Lego and want to make art with it or build massive 5-million-piece structures, that’s not for us to criticize. However, at times the documentary comes very close to seeming like a Christopher Guest mockumentary. At other times, it plays as if it were a corporate film commissioned by the company itself. M.L.