The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button movie poster
MPAA rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama
A man born in 1918 New Orleans (Brad Pitt) ages backward into the 21st century. Based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald story.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Tilda Swinton
Director: David Fincher
Running time: 2:47
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Editorial Review

There's no denying the sheer ambition and technical prowess of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." What's less clear is whether it entirely earns its own inflated sense of self-importance. Brad Pitt plays the title character, who is born in 1918 as an elderly man, then ages backward through the cataclysmic changes of the 20th century.

Adapted from a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald by screenwriter Eric Roth, "Benjamin Button" bears a distinct resemblance to Roth's most famous film, "Forrest Gump." Like that title character, Button is a naif, passively moving through a world and meeting colorful characters who continually amaze him and -- what else -- teach him how to live. Meanwhile, he nurtures a lifelong love for Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett at her most ethereally beautiful.

Much of the narrative tension of "Benjamin Button" derives from watching Pitt drastically alter his appearance, going from a wizened, hunched "E.T."-like creature to a young man at the height of ripe handsomeness. The movie, directed with a firm hand by David Fincher, is often astonishingly beautiful, but in a way that's the problem: You wonder what visionaries such as Tim Burton or Michel Gondry might have done with the material. As it is, "Benjamin Button" is little more than "Gump" by way of "Dorian Gray." It plays too safe when it should be letting its freak flag fly.

-- Ann Hornaday (Dec. 25, 2008)

Contains brief war violence, sexual content, profanity and smoking.