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21 Aug 2014

Pretty yet Plain: An Interesting Premise and a Decent Cast Can't Rescue 'The Giver'

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Brenton Thwaites in The Giver. Brenton Thwaites in The Giver.

In a post-apocalyptic society, humans are being drugged into a state in which they feel no emotion, are completely submissive and see no colors. When they hit their late teens, they are assigned a job that they will have for the rest of their life. Everybody’s equal; there is no war; all aspects of life are predestined.

Lois Lowry’s novel had an interesting premise, but Phillip Noyce’s film simply feels and looks wrong. For starters, The Giver feels like a rip-off of Pleasantville, with the film slowly changing from black-and-white to color; meanwhile, elements of the dystopian society come off like a dated Disney ride. As for the casting, it’s good to see Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep on hand in pivotal roles, but the young leads (Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush) seem like they are overreaching. Taylor Swift shows up for a couple of minutes in a cameo—a cameo that is being marketed as a starring role, misleading her fans.

Bridges is at least interesting as an old wise man who stores all memories of past societies in his head. He’s tasked with passing his memories on to young Jonas (Thwaites)—as if that isn’t going to cause some sort of problem.

Noyce gives us some pretty pictures and a halfway decent cast—and basically doesn’t know what to do with it.

The Giver is playing at theaters across the valley.

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