The Hunger Games is more than child's play
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Stanley Tucci. Rated PG. Opens Friday, March 23, at the Park Theatre
Think the current version of reality TV is a little much? The Hunger Games is set in a postapocalyptic future where teenagers are forced to fight to the death as a form of televised entertainment. The grand prize? The last kid standing gets to live.
In the hands of director Gary Ross, The Hunger Games is slick, creepy, and, yes, intermittently fascinating. It helps to imagine a Miss America pageant where the giddy contestants compete for the chance to slit each other’s throats.
Based on the hugely popular young-adult novel by Suzanne Collins, this is a movie with a built-in adolescent fan base. The story has everything kids like. Young love, the kind of pointy weapons you’re never allowed to play with, and lots of unsupervised time in the woods. The capper? All the grownups are either impotent weaklings or preening idiots.
This does not stop an impressive supporting cast from lining up to play the more mature characters. There’s Donald Sutherland as a laid-back, if undeniably ruthless, dictator; Stanley Tucci, hamming it up as the futuristic equivalent of a sleazy game-show host; and Lenny Kravitz as an unbelievably cool costume designer.
The core audience might recognize Kravitz from their parents’ CD collection, but they’re certainly much too young to connect the dots to an ancient movie like 1987’s The Running Man. Those of us with a little more mileage on the odometer have seen this sort of gaudy mix before.
Still, there’s one big plus here: Jennifer Lawrence is truly exceptional as the film’s heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Katniss has to use everything from her wits to her skill with a bow and arrow to ensure she survives the ultimate elimination. But it’s Lawrence who really prevails. She manages to carry a somewhat patchy movie on her shoulders. Along the way, she makes us care a lot more than we should.
Watch the trailer for The Hunger Games.