The Island Of Dr. Moreau

on August 23, 1996 by Jean Oppenheimer
   Almost from the start of production, "The Island of Dr. Moreau" was plagued, with reports of temperamental stars (Rob Morrow left), a troubled director (Richard Stanley was replaced) and an overall troubled set. Alas, the truth is in the pudding. This unfortunate adaptation of the 100-year-old H.G. Wells novel contains an acutely unfocused script and intentionally over-the-top performances by Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. br>   The story--filmed twice before, once in 1933 and again in 1977--concerns a mad scientist (Brando) whose attempts to create the perfect being have resulted in a species of half-human/half-beast utants. Moreau's island lair is discovered by a plane crash survivor (David Thewlis), rescued from the Java Sea by Moreau's assistant (Kilmer). The story is a free-for-all, with no clear plot ine and no unifying theme. Rather than a cautionary tale about a man playing God, it ends up a freak show of misshapen and stunted creatures who spend the final 40 minutes of the film on a rampage. Brando makes his entrance in kabuki-white makeup, a white caftan and matching gauze head scarf. His ludicrous appearance is on a par ith his performance. Adopting a fey, British accent and unapologetically campy mannerisms, Brando is a joke. Sadly, so is al Kilmer, who apparently decided to play a mocking attitude rather than a character. Only David Thewlis takes his acting esponsibilities seriously, turning in a professional job. In its favor, the film has an eye-catching opening credit sequence, lush scenery and some nice camera work. Surprisingly, the fake-looking mutant creatures don't present much of a problem, because they give the picture a welcome, retro-'40s feel.    Starring Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis and Fairuza Balk. Directed by John Frankenheimer. Written by Richard Stanley and Ron utchinson. Produced by Edward R. Pressman. A New Line release. SF/horror. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence, horror and gore involving mutant creatures. Running time: 95 min.
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