Waltz with Bashir
I’m so hungry I’ll eat these animated eggs!

Theatrical Release Date: 06/12/2008 (Israel), 01/09/2009 (wide U.S.)
Director: Ari Folman
Featuring the voices of: Ari Folman, Ron Ben-Yishai, Ronny Dayag, Dror Harazi, Yehezkel Lazarov, Mickey Leon, Ori Sivan, Zahava Solomon

One thing I will give “Waltz with Bashir” is that it deals with heady, significant issues in a very fresh manner. An animated documentary, writer/director Ari Folman decided to use the rotoscope animation method so popular in commercials these days (and that terrible Philip K. Dick adaptation starring Keanu Reeves).

I’ll be frank, though – I hate that animation. I hate it with the equivalent of my gag reflex to raw coconut. I know it’s supposed to make things look lifelike but it does just the opposite for me, dehumanizing the subjects and making everything a bad acid trip. Now, there are some shots in the film, most notably the opening scene, that work very well and are quite interesting from a visual standpoint.

Sadly, by about minute 7 of the film, I had begun to nod off and by about the hour mark, I had to get up out of my seat and stand in the back so I would stop doing that annoying head-jerk thing that lets everyone around me know that I’m incapable of staying awake. Let me make that clear: I watched the final thirty minutes while standing in the back of the theater so I didn’t fall asleep … not a good sign in my book.

It’s not the subject material that brought me to visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. The 1982 Israeli incursion into Beirut, Lebanon makes for some very gnarly and brutal discussion. However, the drone-like voice delivery of the interviews are like “The Horse Whisperer” on tape … just find a pillow and get yourself some Z’s. If you don’t want to spend the extra money on one of those ocean-sounds machines to help you sleep, get this DVD when it pops on shelves – it does the same thing.

I will capitulate that hearing these people’s accounts of what happened can be stirring at times but I was struggling so hard to keep my eyes open that they might as well have been listing the Fibonacci sequence. There’s even a scene depicting a pornographic tape about a plumber and the women who need his “tools” that would normally have created a break in the numb-fest that is the rest of the film but the animation was more like stunted “Aquateen Hunger Force” and only made me pine for those characters to come and insert some life into the picture.

Before anyone gets too huffy, I do want to say that I don’t mean to sound disrespectful of the tragic events that occurred in 1982 … I just wish the film could have done something to keep me from wanting to leave and enjoy the last half of “Slumdog Millionaire” instead. The final minutes do switch from the animation into actual footage of the atrocities committed during the conflict and the images are heart wrenching … but the cynic in me also wonders why you wait until the very end to show real life and real carnage.

Honestly, the only reason I’m giving “Waltz with Bashir” a 2 out of 5 is out of respect for the real life events it is based on. This ranks in the bottom ten of 2008 films for me from an entertainment standpoint and you will definitely not find me trying to rent this at any video store, anywhere. While I appreciate the interesting new twist on presenting a documentary, I’d rather have had the tried and true method this time around.

I know I’m in the minority on this one, as it is Israel’s official entry as a foreign language film for the 2009 Academy Awards and most critics have gushed over the film like it was their first born. If you want to know who to believe, this is one of the excellent times to decide if you normally agree or disagree with myself or any of the other film critics whose reviews you might have read. I’d be happy for most people to find the profound nature in the film that I missed … I just take my duty to warn people about wasting their money seriously.