The Barbarian Invasions
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Released: May 2003
Maybe because this movie is a sequel, and the second of a trilogy, I just didn’t connect with this film. The first film in the series, The Decline of the American Empire, was made in 1986, so the filmmakers took their sweet time in getting the old gang back together for another go at it. Now you would think that with title words like “Empire” and “Barbarian Invasions” maybe you would be sitting down to some middle-earth epic with orcs or ewoks or possibly a cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger. You would think wrong. The Barbarian Invasions is about a bunch of French Canadian middle-aged ex-hippies smoking doobies and pontificating about the bourgeois. Talk about false advertising.
|An Orc invasion would have livened this up a bit|
The story is about Rémy, an older ex-professor and socialist who is stuck in a hospital with terminal cancer. His son Sébastien is some bigshot business-type, pretty much the personification of what his dear old papa hates. Sébastien loves his dad and wants to do what he can for him to ease his pain, but this is Canada, not Iowa, so getting timely healthcare isn’t really all that easy. Besides gathering all of Rémy’s aging hipster pals in the hospital to cheer him up, Sébastien drives his dad into pre-Obamacare Vermont to get some real meds.
|The cast: French Canadian ex-hippies|
But the real “plot” is with the old folks hanging out, getting high, exchanging glory stories of free sex and Marxism. In other words, the whole thing gets dull in a hurry. Imagine The Big Chill, add 20 years and 20 pounds to everyone, and have them speak French. In addition to that, and I could be wrong about this, I think the filmmakers wanted us to think some of this was funny. I found the whole thing a bore with very little to recommend it. I couldn’t wait for Rémy, and the movie, to end.
|Slightly younger, thinner ex-hippies|
The Title: Les Invasions barbares. I have no idea how this relates to the movie, but the title has to do with a post-911 thing. See, when the Barbarians invaded Rome, it was the beginning of the end of a great empire. So I guess the filmmakers equate al Qaida with Angles and Saxons and Goths? And what does this have to do with Rémy's imminent demise? Je ne sais pas. Makes no sense to me.
The Culture: Other than some slight commentary on the health care system, this could have happened anywhere there is political freedom enough for ex-hippies to decry their government.
Agenda Danger: Again, there is an oblique swipe at Canadian health care, but most of the politics is tame generational conflict. Like, remember le peace, la love, and le dope, man?
Best Picture that year: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Real invasions and real barbarians. Sort of.