Dante’s Inferno (2007)
 
Before I start this review I want to make something very clear.  I’m not an expert on Dante’s Inferno.  I have read it back in my school days and understand what is going on, but I’m sure that there is far more that I don’t know about it.  This review isn’t for that book, but for this particular incarnation of it.  So with that said lets get to the review.  
 
This modern day take on the classic tale of a man’s journey thru hell starts off with a young man named Dante waking up after maybe partying just a bit too hard.  Initially he is confused and doesn’t remember how he ended up sleeping it off in an alley.  His confusion is only heightened when he runs into the spirit of the poet Virgil.  Virgil has been sent to show Dante what might await him in Hell.  Together the two journey thru the levels of Hell meeting up with all sorts of sinners.  Some you would expect, some that you wouldn’t expect, and still others that are there on a technicality.  Finally they meet up with the devil himself (which I found very amusing) and escape hell.  
 
I hate “artsy” movies that come off as student films trying to show you how much smarter the filmmaker is than the audience.  That is what I thought this movie was going to be and is.  What I didn’t expect was how entertaining and truly clever the movie was going to be.  I enjoyed how the setting was updated so that hell looked like different neighborhoods, complete with storefronts and street corners.  For example the pimps in life who’s Hell is working the street corners themselves for all eternity.  To me this is an example of how cleverly updated and well thought out this adaptation is.  I wouldn’t have believed that the performances would matter.  I mean the movie is nothing more than filmed paper puppets moving around a stage.  In the case of Dermot Mulroney that is the case.  His take on Dante is nothing more than a modern day slacker, which is okay but brings nothing to the movie.  But James Cromwell, who voices Virgil, brings so much humor and personality to the character with just his voice.  It always amazes me how an actor can sometimes bring so much to a part in the way he delivers his lines.  You can even hear the irony in his voice when Virgil says, “I hate puppets”.  
 
So there isn’t much to talk about when it comes to the technical stuff.  The techniques used to create the puppet show using paper dolls isn’t new or creative in any way.  I was impressed how nicely done the puppetry was and even more impressed at how well it was filmed.  I haven’t ever seen anything like this before, so it was cool to see.  
 
Man when I got this in the mail I was sure that it was going to bore me to death.  But the exact opposite happened.  When the credits rolled I looked up and realized almost an hour and twenty minutes were gone!  How can I not recommend a movie that pulled me in like that?  If this movie doesn’t get a cult following I’ll be shocked.  
 
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3 out of 4
 
reviewed by John Shatzer
 
© Copyright 2008 John Shatzer