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'Noah': The biblical epic isn't stodgy, but that doesn't mean it's good

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

'Noah' stars Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly.

Niko Tavernise/Paramount Pictures/AP
'Noah' stars Russell Crowe (l.) and Ray Winstone (r.).

A whole lot of water gets dumped in Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah,” a movie for which the phrase “over the top” seems pitifully inadequate. Most biblical epics are stodgy affairs. Not this one – which is not to say that it’s good.

Russell Crowe plays the world’s most famous mariner in a style that can only be descibed as “Russell Crowe-ish” – surly, burly, and monosyllabic. Even when he is called upon to string several sentences together, he usually breaks them up into phrases of no more than three or four words each. I gather he was not being paid by the word.

Literalists are up in arms over the supposed biblical inaccuracies in “Noah,” but this assumes the filmmakers were attempting to be literal. Instead, what we have is a wacked-out fantasia based on snippets from the Bible and also the book of Enoch, Midrashic commentary, and, not least, the “Transformers” movies. (The Watchers, fallen angels guarding Noah’s ark, owe much more to Michael Bay than to the Creator.)

Aronofsky also works in a hefty environmental message here. The Almighty has to wreak havoc on Earth because its denizens have despoiled it. I half expected to see Al Gore do a walk-on.

I’m a big fan of movie follies, which often are more fun than safe successes. But Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” “The Wrestler”) doesn’t have the visionary gift. His grand-scale tableaux, even the Great Flood, are stagey. He encourages his cast – including Jennifer Connelly as Noah’s wife, Naameh; Ray Winstone as local bad guy Tubal-cain; and Emma Watson as Noah’s adopted daughter, Ila – to devour the scenery. It’s appropriate – perfect – that one of the lead characters (overplayed by Logan Lerman) is named Ham. Grade: C (Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content.)

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