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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This isn't a reasonable place to park?
on October 1, 2002
The main thought that kept occurring to me while watching "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" was: IS there ANY movie that could translate Hunter S. Thompson's book to the screen in a satisfying way?
And I don't think there is. It's also just as difficult to re-create an acid trip on film. And Terry Gilliam tries very hard to accomplish both of these impossible tasks. (is it any wonder that Gilliam's has been trying for YEARS to film "Don Quixote" for???).
Gilliam throws EVERYTHING into the mix. He starts with the kitchen sink and then moves into the basement and the garage. And as a result, the movie is polarizing: people are either going to love it or hate it. From scene to scene, my opinion goes up and down. But the bottom line is -- as long as there are bongs, dormrooms and undergraduates: Pink Floyd will never stop selling albums and this movie will always have an audience.
For a Hunter Thompson fan, there are things to love in this film. It looks incredible: bright and shiny as a new red shark, with a production design that must've taken an army to assemble.
And Johnny Depp and Benecio Del Toro completely nail their roles. They BECOME Ralph Steadman's illustrations with performances that go all the way and then some -- at times, watching this movie was literally like seeing the images from the book projected directly on-screen. Although it's a bit funny that Johnny Depp tries so hard to recreate Thompson's sprawling crab-like walk -- Thompson walks like that because he's 6'4 and long-legged... and Depp is, well, less strapping. That's a quibble, of course; Benecio Del Toro put on 60 pounds for this part, but Depp can't exactly gain height -- he did shave his head, though.
On the other hand, the movie is too all over the place to be completely successful. The tone changes drastically on a regular basis, plunging from screwball comedy to somber message to disgusting regurgitation to sly social commentary to vicious anger, then moving off in another dozen different directions. By the time Raoul Duke flashes back to San Francisco in the 60's (and the Youngbloods are hauled out to provide their oft-used historical/musical cue with "Get Together"), you will believe a movie can have 120 different personalities in just under 2 hours.
Which is not to say I don't like this film. You can't love it, but it's hard to completely dislike, and I find myself dropping it into my player every six months or so and skipping to favorite scenes (the wild, confusing opening; the Circus Circus fiasco; the elevator stand-off). Personally, I always thought that, instead of making "Natural Born Killers," Oliver Stone should've tackled Las Vegas (using the same cinematic techniques and Kelsey Grammar as Raoul Duke, but saying that always makes people look at me funny) but Stone didn't do it (and probably would've made an equally problematic movie) so this is the film that was made. It may leak noxious fluids onto my carpet whenever it's on my TV, but... it has a certain charm, nonetheless.