REEL CRITIC:

Imagine being born as an 80-year-old man and living your entire life while aging in reverse. Sounds like an interesting concept for a movie. Trust me, it is. Mix in Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and a top-shelf director and you have a recipe for success that should please film fans of all ages for years to come.

Pitt stars as a curious baby named Benjamin Button who is abandoned at an “old-folks home” in 1918 in post-war New Orleans. The sickly child has cataracts, arthritis, hardening of the arteries, and the doctor says he'll be dead in a few days. Amazingly, Benjamin's health begins to improve and he is adopted by a Creole woman who cares for the elderly. While living in the home, Benjamin makes unique friends and learns from all the people around him that are dying while his body and mind begin to transform.

Is it possible for Benjamin to live a full and productive life while getting younger every day? What happens when he falls in love with a beautiful woman who is 43 and he's 49 and aging in opposite directions? Is it possible to translate a fascinating story by F. Scott Fitzgerald into a major motion picture that could win numerous awards? It doesn't take a lifetime to get these answers, only a movie ticket and 159 minutes.

Ever since I saw the original trailer for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” I knew I had to see this movie, and I decided to take my father along for the journey. The director, David Fincher, gave me and my dad a remarkable gift with his latest offering, and I highly recommend seeing this film with a special loved one if you have three hours of free time.

A lot could go wrong when the lead character goes from 80 to 0 right before your eyes but the special effects are amazing and the entire process was completely believable. The complex plot is also an interesting way to look at life and how people live it.

The film is rated PG-13 and the filmmakers did a wonderful job of making the production family friendly by keeping things tasteful and classy. A lesser director would have spiced things up for a cheap thrill but this movie is safe for all ages, especially senior citizens.

With such a detailed story, the acting had to be spot on to make things work, and Blanchett once again shines as Benjamin's main love interest. She ages at normal pace throughout the film and the makeup and wardrobe departments do an unbelievable job of making her transformation come to life.

The supporting cast also holds their own against the big stars, and Joshua DesRoches really impressed my audience with his portrayal of Rick Brody.

If you're a cultured adult looking for a serious date movie, you should consider this one because it will generate a lively post-movie discussion and linger in your brain for days.

My only complaint is the slow-moving pace and the length of the film. I wish baby Benjamin would have been born at 70 instead of 80. This would have trimmed some time off the production and eliminated my mid-film trip to the restroom.

This is an epic period piece, and the costumes and musical score are some of the best I've experienced this year. You may be inclined to wait until the DVD comes out but that would be a mistake. The scope of the picture looks and sounds fantastic in a darkened auditorium and if you listen intently, you will hear people justifiably crying in their seats.

I was very curious to see “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and my curiosity moved me enough to write this review while on vacation. Treat yourself to a mini-vacation and see this film before time passes you by.


?MATT BELLNER is an actor and writer from Burbank.

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