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Review: City of Ember

City of Ember
10.10.2008
5 10

Plot: After an unknown calamity makes the earth uninhabitable, society is forced to go underground. For generations, the city of “Ember” thrives, but after several hundred years- supplies have begun to dwindle, and the mighty generator that supplies the city’s power has begun to fail. Enter youngsters Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) & Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway), who suspect all is not as it seems in Ember- including the city’s lazy mayor, Cole (Bill Murray), who they suspect is hiding the secret to the city’s salvation.

Review: Usually I wouldn’t expect all that much from a film like CITY OF EMBER. I’m not a big fantasy buff, and I’ve yet to see a film from Walden Media (the fantasy shingle that produced this along with the NARNIA films, NIM”S ISLAND, THE WATERHORSE, etc) that I actually liked. However, I must admit that I was somewhat looking forward to this film for two reasons- director Gil Kenan and the one and only Bill Murray.


I really liked Kenan’s last film, MONSTER HOUSE. I thought it was a great CGI throwback to old Amblin’ Entertainment style films from the eighties- so when I heard he was directing this I figured he might bring some of the same charm he brought to that film to this. Alas, CITY OF EMBER is a real letdown in that regard. It’s basically just like any of the other dozen or so Walden films that have come out over the last few years.

Probably the biggest problem with CITY OF EMBER is that it’s just so damned dull. The film only runs about ninety minutes, but it felt much, MUCH longer. It’s basically a video game come to life, with lots of boring scenes where characters explore new parts of the city, and some really lame CGI escape scenes, including a bizarre episode where the two kids outrun what looks like a giant mutant turkey.

The one thing that really could have saved the film is the excellent cast but most of the players are given very little to do. Top billed Murray probably has about five minutes of screen time, and as he plays the role fairly straight - there’s little room for him to do his thing. Tim Robbins has a slightly more substantial role but he disappears from the film around the midway point, and the film never recovers from his absence. While I liked both Ronan & Treadway in their roles, I wish there had been more scenes of them playing off their fantastic older co-stars. Heck, even Martin Landau turns up at one point- but he gets fairly little to do.


Besides the excellent cast and some interesting production design, there’s not really a heck of a lot to recommend here. I found CITY OF EMBER to be oppressively boring, and as this is a kid’s film- that does not bode well for its box office prospects. I think the film had a lot of potential, but sadly- it’s a bit of a missed opportunity for Kenan & co. Hopefully he’ll do better on his next film- as I really do think he’s one of the more talented up & coming filmmakers out there. And Bill- we still love ya!

Grade: 5/10

Source: JoBlo.com

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