Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Day 270: Baxter (1989) - Rank 3.5/5


After watching this film, it's likely that the most predominant thought rolling around in your nonplussed head is: "The French are fucked up." From Cocteau to Jeunet, the French have been trumping American cinema far longer than the Japanese. While they're the butt of countless "surrendering jokes," they undoubtedly have the last laugh when they see half of the movie screens in our country playing "Twilight." Well, in 1989, France also produced a film that was undoubtedly the answer to the talking animal indistry.

Don't act like you don't know what I speak of. Anthropomorphized animals have been popular since the dawn of Disney. Live action animal films are prime box office fare for toddlers with Kool-aid stained lips and their mothers who drag them in front of a screen in the desperate hope that a cat making butt-licking jokes will satiate her child's sugar-fueled insanity for ninety minutes. "Homeward Bound," "Benji," "Milo and Otis," "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," "Air Bud," "Cats Vs. Dogs"...the list goes on. "Baxter" is a film so atypical for the genre that it blows my mind.

Baxter is a cathartic bull terrier that dreams of having a master whose impulses mirror his own. Baxter enjoys refusing the compassion of his elderly owner and watching the young married couple across the street make love. Eventually he grows weary of his old crone caretaker and trips her on the steps, killing her. When another couple takes him in, he tries his best to make their newborn baby suffer a similar fate. Eventually, he ends up under the care of an aspiring neo-Nazi, who begins training Baxter to maim and kill his classmates. And Baxter is happy.

I love dark films, but this gets so heavy at times, I was left wondering if I genuinely enjoyed the film. I would liken "Baxter" with "Requieum for a Dream" when it comes to considering the film an enjoyable watch. Both titles are excellent, intriguing fare with moments of delightfully macabre humor, but they aren't films that demand frequent, repeat viewings.

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