I was introduced to the movie right after it came out by my kids. I thought the title was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard from a movie company (and still do), so I put off watching the movie for two years after they told me about it. Andy finally bought a copy and I watched it.
Donnie Darko is still a dumb movie title and a corny character name, but the movie is watchable–sorta. When I watched the movie this time, I did so with headphones and I was able to hear all the mumbled, inaudible bits, which there are way too many of. The movie is not subtle or informed at all in its explanation of time travel and time paradoxes. The foreshadowing is like being stabbed in the eye repeatedly and is horribly executed. The foreshadowing generally happens in all the mumbling, so I missed it until this time through. I liked when I couldn’t hear it, and thought something significant was being said. Nothing was.
I do identify with the movie, however. I grew up in the eighties and so many of the themes were common to my youth. I like many of the pop-culture references from the eighties, like the Smurfs and Tony Robbins. The Tony Robbins character is very real for me. When I was fifteen and had just moved into my neighborhood here in Provo, Utah, I and another boy who just moved in (he from New Jersey) tried to get our mormon ecclesiastical lay minister (bishop) to give us permission to play Dungeons and Dragons in the church. The bishops of both the churches we attended before moving to Utah allowed this. The Utah bishop thought Dungeons and Dragons involved devil-worship and so sent us off to watch a Tony Robbins, brainwashing-deprogrammer type who claimed to know how to remove the evil influences of Dungeons and Dragons, Heavy Metal and Atari Home Video Games. We played Dungeons and Dragons at school instead (BTW: I do value that bishop. He was a hard working, honorable man who before retiring was a uranium prospector out in the Utah desert. He was just too old for Dungeons and Dragons).
For me the best part of the movie is the music. I own the soundtrack and love every song on it. The great music does not make up for the pitiful performances. The acting is boring, stiff, amateurish and not engaging in the least. The dialogue is not very interesting and the important stuff is mumbled.
The big problem for the movie is that I could never suspend my disbelief and get involved in the movie. I know a bit about how time-paradoxes and time-travel work and found the movie’s premise worse than anything from Star Trek.
If you want to watch a movie about teenage angst (what the 80s is famous for) and listen to great music, then this is for you. If you are at all a Sci-Fi/science fan, don’t bother. Donnie Darko is a big let down. Maybe if you dodn’t watch it with headphones and thus couldn’t understand what was being said most of the time, it might then become passable or even a cult classic.