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Fat Man and Little Boy

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

If you want to understand just how great Christopher Nolan's new film "Oppenheimer" is, just compare it to the 1989 big screen effort to tell the same story, FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY.

Fat Man and Little Boy were the names of the two bombs developed during the Manhattan project, but this long & boring take on history is a giant bomb unto itself.

An hour shorter than Nolan's new take, it feels twice as long as the 2023 version.

Paul Newman is General Leslie Groves, coming off building the Pentagon and tasked with developing an atomic bomb to defeat the Nazis. I am a huge Newman fan, but this is one of his worst performances, one-note and dull.

Dwight Schultz (from the TV Series "A-Team") is horribly miscast as Oppenheimer. He brings little quirk to the role, far too mainstream to be the tightly wound, controversial and hair-trigger scientist so brilliantly portrayed by Cillian Murphy in Nolan's film.

Bonnie Bedilia (Die Hard) spends most of the movie drunk as Oppy's wife Kitty and Natasha Richardson blends into the woodwork as Oppenheimer's socialist girlfriend Jean Tatlock. The socialist leanings are handled like subplots in a soap opera, never ringing true thanks to a clumsy screenplay by Bruce Robinson (Withnail and I) and director Roland Joffe (The Killing Fields). It's loaded with dialogue than the actors seem awkward saying.

Real people don't talk like the characters in this film. Worst of all are young Laura Dern and John Cusack as a nurse and scientist at Los Alamos. They are really bad here, but its not their fault. They're both forced to play characters that seem to serve the sole purpose of being our "everyday man and woman we can relate to" within the story. It's clumsy and makes these two very good actors look shockingly bad.

Poor Cusack is forced to spill constant, boring narration that made me cringe.

The only high spot of the film is Vilmos Zsigmond's photography. He brings the same Panavision vistas and superb shots he did to so many Spielberg films like "Close Encounters". Composer Ennio Morricone also delivers a strong music score, except for the "Patton"-like military march he phones in for Groves in key scenes.

The atomic bomb test explosion here is a very weak and poorly staged cousin of Nolan's take. Seen mostly as a reflection in Oppenheimer's goggles, it's yet another let down in a film already burdened with plenty of them.

Dull, boring and generating zero suspense or tension, FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY fizzles out long before they push the button, earning a C-.

Go watch "Oppenheimer", that's the way to unwrap history.

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