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I Dreamed of Africa

Rated [PG-13]
Starring Kim Basinger
Screenplay by Paula Milne
Based on the book by Kuki Gallmann
Directed by Hugh Hudson
Official website

IN SHORT: I dream of a comfortable seat to snooze in.

Africa is a lovely continent and, when properly photographed, breathtaking in its beauty. Set an incredibly strong story against such a background (usually a foreigner against the Land and so forth) and the effect is magnified. When the story fails to connect, to stir the emotions in the audience, you have the equivalent of a travel brochure. Such is the case with director Hugh Hudson's I Dream of Africa, which hits your local movie screen with a sickening plop.

You can't put all the blame on Kim Basinger's one-dimensional portrayal of Kuki Gullman an Italy-based American widow who takes on a new marriage and a new life facing the extremely-alien, to her, African continent. Settling in [Kenya] with new husband Paolo (Vincent Perez) and kidlet son Emanuele (Liam Aiken). It's the job of the director to get the best and fullest performance that he can out of his cast, something the Oscar-winning Basinger is more than capable of. What makes it to the screen indicates to me, at least, that Hudson seems more concerned with avoiding controversial topics than with telling a compelling story. When, early in the flick, Paolo disappears for days at a time on a hunting expedition Kuki is p.o.'d because she hasn't learned Swahili yet and has no concept how to run an African estate. Ducking the question of European domination of African cultures -- heck unless I missed a title card I'm not even sure what the proper timeframe for this flick is, which is politically important to the background story-- we're left with a standard stranger in a strange land story with performances so bland that there is nothing that resembles a standard emotional story arc. Lovely scenery, though.

We also found we got suckered by the accents and poor background development in the first act (Italy). West Coast correspondent Paul Fischer corrects us:

Sometimes a film emerges that should be something special, that the original source material can only make for a solid drama. Alas, that's not the case with I Dreamed of Africa, a movie that puts new meaning into the word 'tedium'. But apart from the film's sluggish pace, the movie's additional faults lay with the film's problematic performances, a problem that exists as the film deals with character arcs. Let's begin with the obvious. This is a movie about an Italian family in Africa. True story. So the producers decide to cast a Frenchman and an American, and of course ensure that they each speak in their natural tongues. Beyond that, Basinger, as hauntingly lovely she is on screen, is simply incapable of neither carrying a film, nor evoking any real emotions. Try as she might, and she does deliver one or two nice moments, Basinger lacks the emotive range to make us believe in her character's journey. Without that belief, the film can't work, so suffers from the outset. Perez is even worse, giving a superficial performance, and there is no chemistry between the two actors. He is devilishly attractive, but one has the impression that he doesn't really grasp his character's dichotomy.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to I Dreamed of Africa, he would have paid...


An utter waste of time and, in both our judgments, the worst drama we've seen this year.

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