In a strange way, the new thriller Awake reminded me of Monty Python. You see, as the film kept rolling along, it just got sillier and sillier. By the third act, I was expecting the late Graham Chapman to pop out from around the corner wearing the British General outfit and stop the movie, declaring that things had just become too silly.

I went into Awake expecting to see a nice little movie about anesthetic awareness, but then it started having so many plot twists that the Ask a Ninja guy would be more annoyed with it than he was Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. By the time things were all said and done, we were left with a story that didn’t even deal with anesthetic awareness, so much so that the concept was really nothing more than an excuse to show a guy screaming in his head during open-heart surgery.

The film follows Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen), a billionaire who is living under an oppressive and over-protective mother (Lena Olin). Clayton has some heart problems. First, he’s got a weak one that’s put him on the short list for a donor. Second, he’s given his heart to “commoner” Sam (Jessica Alba), much to his mother’s chagrin.

However, when Clayton gets a chance for a real heart transplant, he goes under the knife to discover that the anesthesia isn’t quite working. Not only is he able to hear everything in the O.R., but feel everything that happens to him. Soon, he gets past the pain to hear some skullduggery happening in the room, revealing some pretty nasty things in his life.

I will admit that I didn’t have a problem staying awake during Awake, which is saying something considering I was running on only one hour of sleep. But while the film kept my interest to a degree, it was more out of sheer curiosity of how much sillier writer/director Joby Harold would make the thing.

It’s not that I expect complete adherence to reality for a film like this. It’s a crappy little thriller being dropped in the dead zone of the holiday season by the Weinsteins, after all. But I would expect at least a Grey’s Anatomy level of operating room believability. Instead of doing any sort of real research, it appears Joby Harold just made stuff up as he went along.

Too many plot holes and believability errors littered the landscape of this film. I just couldn’t get past the fact that the richest man in New York was going to have open-heart surgery with just two surgeons, one nurse and an anesthesiologist. I would imagine that if Donald Trump needed a five-hour operation, there’s be a cavalcade of specialists on hand, if not the Chief of Surgery, overseeing things. Ultimately, this film didn’t even mass the muster of the armchair surgeons that watch prime-time television each week.

Sure, Jessica Alba was quite fetching in the movie. Until she does her unibrow equivalent of Frida, she’s always going to make any viewing experience more pleasant. But she’s also not the top actress in Hollywood. Put her up against the wooden-yet-weepy Hayden Christensen, and she comes out looking pretty good, but not enough to save the film.

Aside from a gratuitous nude scene from Jessica Alba, the only other thing that could have improved this film would have been if Hayden Christensen would have leaped up from the surgery, pulled out a lightsaber and went holy Jedi ape-shit over the rest of the hospital.

Awake didn’t invoke the utter pain of surgery without anesthesia, but it didn’t redeem anyone from this career decision either.

Grade: D

The Upside: Jessica Alba is almost naked in one scene, and you actually see the swell of her breast.

The Downside: This film wasn’t screened for critics or anyone else – including the director’s mother. Draw your own conclusions.

On the Side: Anesthetic awareness is a real phenomenon that affects tens of thousands of people each year. Yikes.

Im Not There Poster Release Date: November 30, 2007
Rated: R for language, an intense disturbing situation, and brief drug use.
Running Time: 78 min.
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba, Terrence Howard, Lena Olin
Director: Joby Harold
Screenplay: Joby Harold
Studio: The Weinstein Co.
Official Website: Click Here

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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