Being John Malkovich 1.0 stars

The feature debut of music-video and television-ad director Spike Jonze concerns a sidewalk puppeteer (John Cusack, looking as scraggly as Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo), whose explicitly erotic production of Abelard and Heloise earns him repeated punches in the mouth, and whose wife populates their apartment with a diapered chimp and a talking bird, among other exotic animals, and whose moonlighting job as a file clerk takes him to an office on a seventh-and-a-half floor under a four-foot ceiling ("Low overhead"). The bizarreries are so relentless that it seems quite natural when, half an hour in, he discovers behind a filing cabinet a secret passage to the brain of John Malkovich, where he can remain for fifteen minutes before he gets spat out into a ditch off the Jersey Turnpike. The one real surprise in all this is the revelation that John Malkovich has a sense of humor about himself. And the comic highlight comes when Malkovich himself crawls down the tunnel into his own brain. Most of the rest is indefatigably tiresome. With Catherine Keener, Cameron Diaz, Orson Bean, and Mary Kay Place. 1999.

Duncan Shepherd

This movie is not currently in theaters.


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