Home » New films: 100-Year Old Man more appealing than George Clooney
Arts Film Review

New films: 100-Year Old Man more appealing than George Clooney

Directed by Brad Bird

The big ticket new release this week is “Tomorrowland” by Brad Bird (“The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”) and starring George Clooney. Even just knowing that much about it, it’s a film that arrives with high expectations. I was personally impressed when Bird jumped from animated family films to the action genre so successfully in the “Mission Impossible” franchise, and he seemed like somebody who was simply good at telling stories, regardless of their form. But he’s dropped that well-juggled ball with “Tomorrowland.”

Britt Robertson is delightful as a young woman who’s sabotaging a NASA de-construction site, in the hopes of keeping her father’s job alive. When she’s released from a brief stint in police custody, she discovers a pin that magically transports her to another world, via relatively simple but extremely effective edits between locations. This is also played to good effect by having her perceive the new world while remaining in the old one, such that she ends up walking into walls and falling down stairs as she experiences the alternate reality.

The alternate dimension she’s peeking into has been established by various great thinkers, as a place where creative and brilliant people could gather unobtrusively and advance the cause of humanity. Clooney’s character is one of those people who found his way to Tomorrowland as a child, using an identical pin, until he was later expelled as a result of something he invented.

It’s really a fascinating idea and the film is well produced, with neat effects and images. However, the story just isn’t told very well. It’s all a bit of a muddle of styles and genres – never seeming to fit into one category. That’s true of this week’s other reviewed film also, but whereas it works in a quirky, juxtaposed way for “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,” it just makes “Tomorrowland” seem poorly defined.

At times it feels like a children’s adventure story, at others like classic science fiction, and towards the end like a philosophical treatise on the power of positive thought. It almost ends up feeling like some kind of odd recruiting film for a science camp related youth cult. As the film ended, my screening partner leaned over and whispered “Was this directed by Al Gore?” – and I knew exactly what he meant. It was like “An Inconvenient Truth” had somehow become the training film for a new generation of Mouseketeers.

In short, it’s well made, quite beautiful to look at, occasionally quite funny, and kids may really enjoy it. But it’s narratively awkward at best and messy at worst, carrying a cynical perspective on mass media and cultural influences that’s addressing a different audience. It’s the Ford Edsel of films, trying too hard to please everybody with its parts and likely to please few with its whole.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Directed by Felix Herngren

Opening at the Tower Theatre today is a strangely appealing Swedish film (although much of the dialogue is in English) that’s also a strange combination of styles, albeit one that works more successfully than “Tomorrowland.”

Robert Gustafsson stars as the title character, despite being only a little more than half that age himself. And the film employs some of the best aging makeup to complement Gustafsson’s convincing acting. His Allan Karlsson is a centenarian with a lifelong love of explosives, who blew up one fox too many and ended up in a nursing home, although not for too long, as the title suggests.

This is essentially “Little Big Man” meets “Forrest Gump” with a Swedish twist, but with a crime caper thrown in to help propel the action. We’re gradually told Karlsson’s lifestory, as he and an assortment of characters he meets up with (after his very low speed assisted-living facility escape) attempt to evade a gang of inept villains trying to retrieve a suitcase he’s inadvertently stolen from them.

Karlsson, like Gump, is essentially a very simple guy with a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He’s no big thinker – his mother clearly told him “Thinking will get you nowhere” and he has stuck with that philosophy throughout his life. But, also like Gump, his past contains a list of famous places and people, including Franco, Truman, Stalin, and Reagan. All of which is narrated in character with endless lines such as “For many years I did nothing but eat and sleep and blow things up. It was a wonderful time.”

It’s not a fast-paced film, in fact it stumbles along at the walking pace of a 100-year old man, and there are moments especially early on when it risks losing its own appeal in the process. But it pays off in the long run in with so many amusing moments as villains are killed in accidental but convenient ways, threats are made, lives are changed, and history is lampooned, as Allan Karlsson wanders, almost obliviously, through the middle of it all.

About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

Support Local


Subscribe to Our
Weekly Newsletter

Stay connected to what's happening
in the city
We respect your privacy

Subscribe to Sacramento

Share via
Copy link