[Screen It]

(2007) (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody) (R)

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Dramedy: A man reunites his estranged brothers in hopes of them experiencing a spiritual rebirth while traveling via train in India.
A year after their father's funeral, a wealthy man, Francis (OWEN WILSON), reunites his estranged brothers, Peter (ADRIEN BRODY) and Jack (JASON SCHWARTZMAN), onboard The Darjeeling Limited, a train traveling across India. Only he knows of their ultimate destination, but he informs his siblings that he wishes for them to experience a spiritual rebirth of sorts.

As they make their journey and Jack has a fling with Indian porter Rita (AMARA KARAN), the brothers must come to grips with their differences and the reasons they aren't as close as siblings should be.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
There's the old saying that one can choose their friends but not their family. In other words, you might not like or have to accept who they are and what they do, but you have no choice but to admit that you are related to them by blood. In many a family, that ends up involving some relative who pushes the limits, often some eccentric type that only a family could love.

In the extended family of the world of cinema, the eccentric uncle would be Wes Anderson, a favorite of certain film critics and art house fanatics alike. An acquired taste for everyone else, he's the filmmaker who broke onto the scene back in 1996 with "Bottle Rocket," went a bit more mainstream with "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums," and recently helmed "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou."

Like the whacky relative you sporadically see on holidays, the director shows up every few years with his latest offering. Yet, while I accepted and even somewhat liked his eccentricities at first, they, his directorial style and flourishes, as well as his heavy reliance on all things quirky are starting to grow increasingly tiresome with each subsequent film.

Case in point is his latest pic, "The Darjeeling Limited." As in his other works, it's the tale of dysfunctional types in a family. This time around, it's three brothers -- played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman -- who board the title train across India, with only Wilson's character knowing their ultimate destination.

The film looks wonderful and captures the beauty and starkness of the Indian countryside, and there are various visuals that will stick with you at least for some time, if not longer, after the end credits roll. Yet, despite all of that, the rampant symbolism that will mean different things to different viewers, and the unavoidable connections to Wilson's real life troubles at the time of the film's theatrical release, the pic ends up being another self-indulgent exercise in being quirky and different simply for the sake of being just that.

While his supporters/defenders might argue that's some or all of the point, you have to admit that whimsy and eccentricity will only care a movie so far, at least for those who aren't diehard Anderson aficionados. Dressing up his performers in exaggerated ways (Brody wearing his late father's oversized prescription sunglasses, Wilson with his head heavily bandaged, etc.) and having them act in some goofy or, dare I say it again, quirky fashion might elicit a chuckle or grin the first time. Yet, there has to be something beyond that, as the effect diminishes proportionally with each subsequent exposure.

When one realizes nothing much of substance is ever going to transpire (beyond the unsatisfying thematic elements of "lost" men trying to find themselves and rediscover their brotherhood), the mind starts to wander and can't avoid noting the similarities between the character Wilson plays and his recent, real-life troubles. That's especially true when the film eventually reveals that his head wounds are due to a bit of intended self-harm, and that his general unhappiness might just be hitting rather close to home.

Of course, no one could have anticipated what was going to happen after the film wrapped production, but it's certainly an interesting and even somewhat eerie bit of fact and fiction blending. Beyond that, there are some cameos by former Anderson players such as Bill Murray and Anjelica Huston, as well as a short film starring Schwartzman and Natalie Portman (where the latter bares all), but none of them really amount to anything.

The odd thing about the short film is that it reportedly will appear on the Internet and eventually the DVD, but will not play theatrically with the main picture. Accordingly, the brief appearance of Portman toward the end of the main film won't make any sense, although in the overall scheme of things, that won't really matter.

By the time the film takes a more serious turn in the third act -- where the brothers experience tragedy, all as those scenes are inter-cut with flashback footage of them back in the U.S. trying to get to their father's funeral -- only the director's diehard fans will care, let alone still be watching. For the casual viewer who stumbles across this film while channel surfing, it will all too quickly become apparent that this trip on "The Darjeeling Limited" is a boring excursion to nowhere. It rates as just a 3.5 out of 10.

Reviewed September 18, 2007 / Posted October 12, 2007

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