EmptyOpens: Friday, Dec. 5 (Freestyle Releasing)
Director Randall Miller follows up his ineffective but likable “Bottle Shock” with the ineffective and dislikable “Nobel Son.”
From its punning title to its in-your-face technical aspects to its relentless quirkiness, this would-be comic thriller tries far too hard for maximum effect while achieving minimal results.
The filmmaker at least had the good sense to again employ Alan Rickman, here working very much in his thespian comfort zone as Eli Michaelson, an insufferable and womanizing chemist who has just received notice that he has won the Nobel Prize. But Eli’s arrogant reveling in his own success is thwarted by the apparent kidnapping of his son, Barkley (Bryan Greenberg), an anthropology graduate student specializing in the study of cannibalism.
It soon turns out that the kidnapper, Thaddeus (Shawn Hatosy), has more than a casual relationship with his captive. Also figuring prominently in the increasingly convoluted proceedings are a sexy poetess named City Hall (Eliza Dushku), with whom Barkley has a one-night stand; Eli’s forensic pathologist wife (Mary Steenburgen); a dogged cop (Bill Pullman) investigating the case; and a deeply strange obsessive-compulsive neighbor (Danny DeVito).
The screenplay, written by Miller and Jody Savin (who also collaborated with him on “Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”) has some decent one-liners but eventually falls victim to its pretensions, which are only accentuated by the overly frenetic editing and pulse-pounding techno music soundtrack (by Paul Oakenfold and the Chemical Brothers, among other cutting-edge artists).
The veteran players manage to invest their performances with some moments of droll humor, with Steenburgen particularly fun as the wife who reveals an unexpected steeliness. Less effective are the younger performers, who too readily indulge in their characters’ more outrageous aspects. But “Nobel Son” ultimately doesn’t reflect well on anyone involved.
Production: Unclaimed Freight: Alan Rickman, Bryan Greenberg, Shawn Hatosy, Mary Steenburgen, Bill Pullman, Eliza Dushku, Danny DeVito, Ernie Hudson, Ted Danson. Director-Editor: Randall Miller.
Screenwriters-producers: Randall Miller, Jody Savin.
Executive producers: Art Klein, Tom Soulanile, Michael Ravine, Merv Davis, Jeffrey Goddard, Phil Trubey. Director of photography: Michael J. Ozier.
Production designer: Craig Stearns.
Music: Paul Oakenfold, Mark Adler.
Costume designer: Kathryn Morrison.
Rated R, 110 minutes.