Slouching ‘Tiger’ (and the snow) 

"To convey happiness, you must be happy," and "to convey pain, you must be happy." So believes Attilio, the poet protagonist of Roberto Benigni’s "The Tiger and the Snow," and, as his love-struck hero buoyantly braves war zones to save his ailing beloved, these thoughts appear to belong to filmmaker-star Benigni, too. But they don’t impress. Pitching this film on the same tragicomic wavelength that carried "Life Is Beautiful" to Oscarville, Benigni can’t achieve even superficial charm or credibility.

Once again, Benigni uses war to deliver a message of positivism and humanity, casting himself as a pure-hearted free spirit who takes extreme action to save a loved one and, for all his bumbling, attracts the girl. His Attilio, a Rome poet and professor, falls passionately for a writer named Vittoria (Nicoletta Braschi) and pursues her even to war-raging Baghdad after learning she’s been gravely injured there. Informed that Vittoria will die unless she receives medicine the hospital lacks, Attilio mad-dashes through the city, determined to obtain the remedy.

Basically, this movie’s an egregious misfire.

"Life Is Beautiful" hardly deserved Oscar affirmation, but at least it was adeptly contrived and seriously acknowledged the horror of its setting — elements that enabled us to accept Benigni’s rose-tempered fantasy. This time, the story is thin, the romance is shallow "Sleeping Beauty" fare, and Benigni, serving up madcap chases, camel shtick and a bomb-filled sky with a splendorous look, accentuates the positive and the zany embarrassingly. As Attilio fixates on saving one woman while remaining virtually oblivious to the mass torment around her, Benigni can’t make such flagrant romanticism float. For all its fairy-tale ingredients, the movie’s low on magic.

As an actor, Benigni, who’s previously been an effective screen comic ("The Monster"; "Night on Earth"), is tediously unfunny as he tries to reap laughs from minefields. The normally winning Braschi (Benigni’s wife and frequent co-star), meanwhile, can’t bring spark to a character who spends much of her time comatose.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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