Thursday, June 28, 2012

Netflix Reviews: "The Darwin Awards"

Have you ever heard ridiculous stories about people and the hilarious ways they managed to kill themselves? Like the guy who willingly slammed through a window and fell to his death because he believed the window was unbreakable? Or the the experienced parachutist who forgot his parachute? Have you ever caught yourself thinking that the poor folks who are dumb enough to commit such mind meltingly stupid acts are actually helping improve the overall stock of the collective gene pool by removing themselves from it?

Well author Wendy Northcutt seems to think so! Northcutt is the author of the Darwin Awards and creator of, which celebrate individuals who have died as a result of extremely ridiculous circumstances. These people and their stories have been seen on numerous shows over the years such as Mythbusters because some have taken on urban legend status. These stories have resonated so strongly that they even had a movie made about them which happens to be on Netflix for your viewing pleasure.

The Darwin Awards is a 2006 comedy film that stars Joseph Fiennes and Winona Ryder and is inspired by Northcutt's work and the stories they entail. The film also has some very entertaining appearances by actors like David Arquette, Juliet Lewis, Wilmer Valderrama, and even the Mythbusters themselves Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. The film is presented as a documentary being filmed by a college student as he follows Fiennes' character, Michael, a detective who loses his job after failing to catch a serial killer because he faints at the slightest sign of blood. Michael struggles to get back on his feet and decides to use his detective skills and encyclopedic knowledge of the eponymous Darwin Awards to help an insurance company profile individuals who may fall under the category of a Darwin Award. After impressing the company he is partnered off with Winona Ryder, who represents the more sane half of the duo and they travel the country investigating numerous deaths that are unorthodox to say the least.

Most of these cases are ripped straight out of the Darwin Awards website and anyone who watches Mythbusters will definitely recognize a number of the cases the duo investigates. While the stories may be familiar to anyone who likes shows like Mythbusters, The Darwin Awards manages to add clever, and sometimes very dark, humor to these stories to make them seem more original. However, the cases are only a minor aspect in the film.

The primary focus of the film is about Michael and his obsessive nature which is the root to his obsession with the Darwin Awards. He meticulously plans out his routine and goes to extreme lengths to keep himself from becoming one of the many Darwin Award stories he finds so fascinating. Of course, his overly cautious nature usually backfires, and nearly does kill him, such as when he attempts to take a shower in a hotel bathroom and uses bungee chords to keep himself from slipping only to get himself stuck upside down. Winona Ryder's character, Siri, is always annoyed by Michael's obsessive nature and tries to get him to loosen up.

 There is also a sub-plot focusing on Michael's continued search for the killer he let slip away. Every so often we see him pouring over newspaper clippings tied to the case and the film actually shifts from the Darwin Award investigations to the murderer near the climax of the film. While I didn't really find this sub-plot to be as interesting as the Darwin Award stories, it's function within the story makes sense in context.

 There were numerous things I enjoyed about this movie, and some things I felt indifferent to.The documentary style of filming seems a bit unnecessary because the film isn't always filmed in the documentary style. There are numerous scenes that are shot traditionally, mainly when the story shifts to the actual Darwin Award stories, so the inclusion of the documentary style is a questionable one. However it does provide a number of hilarious scenes where, during moments where Michael and Siri are in trouble, the camera man will not help them because the rules of a documentary include non-interference. However, even then, this film is shot rather professionally and clearly.

 The acting is fairly solid. Joseph Fiennes comes off as a genuine odd ball with little social skills and pretty much carries the movie all by himself. Winona Ryder is, as always, Winona Ryder. I find that she never really changes much from character to character. The other actors do very well with what little screen time they have and managed to provide numerous laughs as a result.

 Overall this is a solid comedy. I enjoyed the grim humor and this film never stops being funny. There are numerous comedy set pieces to be found here that will keep you laughing. However, the best, and most hilarious, part of this movie is the inclusion of Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. While I won't spoil to you what their role in the film is, needless to say it was a great pleasure seeing them appear, especially considering stories like the Darwin Awards are what they use to make their show. Their appearance alone assured that I would enjoy this movie.

 I enjoyed this movie, more than I expected, and I certainly recommend you add it to your queue.

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