Our Brand Is Crisis deserves nomination for dullest movie of the year

by Bob Brown
Posted 11/03/15, 03:20 pm

The release of Our Brand Is Crisis coincides with one of the more colorful American presidential primary seasons in recent memory. Unfortunately, it isn’t half as interesting as a real-life Republican debate. Crisis tells the tale of a last-place campaign’s upswing, propelled by dirty tricks of the trade, but makes drab work out of potentially entertaining and thought-provoking material. Campaign boss wannabes might pick up a few pointers from the film, but others considering buying a ticket might elect to sit this one out.

Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock) hasn’t run a political campaign in years. She quit the muckraking business after a streak of losses. Inexplicably, a Bolivian presidential candidate’s team of advisors asks her to bail out his campaign. Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida), now a senator but at one time the country’s president, is down 28 points in the polls. Jane joins his campaign staff just three months ahead of the election.

She quickly discovers just how uphill the battle will be. Her former nemesis, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), is running the campaign of the leading candidate, Victor Rivera (Louis Arcella). Jane and Pat have squared off against each other several times in the past, and Pat’s candidate has always come out on top.

For Jane, the race is more about her than her candidate or what’s good for the Bolivian people. Nothing can stand in the way of her win, not even the candidate. As Castillo starts to climb in the polls, he rebuffs Jane’s advice to take cheap shots at Rivera. 

“I am this close to winning this thing, and I’m not going to let you ruin it!” she tells him.

In one of the film’s few slick sequences, Jane gets her way by playing dirty with her own candidate. She surreptitiously prints leaflets with untrue adultery accusations against Castillo. When the media picks up on the story, Castillo blames Rivera and agrees to strike back with Jane’s suggested TV ad sucker punches.

Crisis (rated R for language, including some sexual references) flops as a satire, if such was intended. At best, the film weighs in as a political Rocky II drama, where underdog Jane tries to make a comeback against an old foe. But there’s really no one to root for or against. Pat, although unpleasant, is no more villainous than Jane. And the cigarette smoke and profanities Jane exhales fail to transform the girl-next-door Bullock into a bona fide stinker you love to hate.

How bland is Crisis? It’s like watching Bernie Sanders watch paint dry. And with no justification, the film’s final scene abruptly conjures a total transformation in Jane and ends on a dopey platitude: “If you don’t like the road you’re on, start paving another one.”

If only I’d heard that advice before I left for the theater.

Bob Brown

Bob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course.

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