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Not since Crocodile Dundee has there been such of a fish-out-of-water on the streets of Manhattan as Theo, the Arctic Inuit who travels to the Big Apple to warn about the dangers of climate change. But while the film featuring that Aussie adventurer was a lighthearted romp, Ezna Sands‘ Chloe & Theo is a deadly earnest polemic whose good intentions are smothered by its inept execution. Including among its executive producers such wealthy business heavyweights as Richard Branson and John Paul DeJoria, the film should at least result in a good tax write-off.
Theo Ikummaq — who the publicity materials state was actually born in an igloo — plays a version of himself in this story about an Inuit who is sent by his elders to the “South” to warn “the elders” there of the impending climactic catastrophe if they don’t change their polluting ways.
“If they do not stop, we are finished,” one of them solemnly intones.
So Theo hops on a flight to New York City, where he walks from the airport to Chinatown and rents a furnished room. Wandering the streets, he’s immediately accosted by a trio of muggers (you’d think this was 1974) and is rescued by the homeless Chloe (Dakota Johnson), who takes him to the dilapidated apartment she shares with several fellow squatters.
Informed by Theo that he needs to meet with “the elders,” she at first takes him to a rundown senior center. But then her friend, chess hustler Mr. Sweet (Andre De Shields), suggests going to the United Nations, which doesn’t work out so well when security guards promptly arrest them. Their case attracts the attention of a human rights lawyer (Mira Sorvino) who devotes herself to the cause.
The film is clearly meant as a sort of fable, but it doesn’t succeed even on its own unrealistic terms. Featuring such running gags as everyone calling Theo an Eskimo, only to be gently corrected that he’s Inuit, it culminates in a over-the-top melodramatic tragic ending that mainly provides a cameo opportunity for a very serious-looking Larry King.
Ikummaq displays a quiet dignity in his understated performance, even as his character is often reduced to being the butt of silly jokes. But Johnson squanders whatever good will she earned from 50 Shades of Grey, looking apple-pie wholesome as a homeless ex-junkie whose squalid state is suggested only by artful smudges on her cheeks.
Ultimately, the film represents the sort of simplistic preaching to the choir that climate change deniers will gleefully deride.
Production: Arctica Films
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Theo Ikummaq, Ashley Springer, Andre De Shields, Mira Sorvino
Director/screenwriter: Ezna Sands
Producer: Monica Ord
Executive producers: Monica Ord, Sir Richard Branson, John Paul DeJoria, Larry Winokur, Russell Long, Melissa Jackson, John Novak
Directors of photography: Luke Geissbuhler, Aaron Krummel, Peter Zeitlinger
Production designer: Mary Frederickson
Editors: Victor Jory, Jonathan Woodford-Robinson
Costume designer: Virginia Cook
Composers: The Newton Brothers
Rated PG-13, 81 min.
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