House of Fools (2002)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Black Comedy, War Romance, Satire  |   Release Date - Apr 25, 2003 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 104 min.  |   Countries - France, Russia  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Todd Kristel

This isn't the first film to suggest that people who live peacefully inside a mental hospital are saner than those who fight war outside. It's also not the first film to suggest that war is absurd and, of course, hell. Unfortunately, writer/director Andrei Konchalovsky doesn't bring a lot of fresh ideas to this old, sentimental, and somewhat simpleminded conceit. Indeed, the most effective moments in this film are the ones that disregard the patients and instead show soldiers bargaining among themselves for drugs and a corpse. Meanwhile, the mental patients aren't developed much as characters. The lisping and generally chirpy Janna (Julia Vysotsky) is a reasonably appealing lead (and, not surprisingly, she's a relatively attractive and high-functioning patient), but Konchalovsky devotes too much time to showing her Bryan Adams fantasies (unless his point is that listening repeatedly to "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" is as painful as witnessing the ravages of war). Also, the story line is a bit of a jumble instead of flowing smoothly from one scene to the next. Although Konchalovsky can occasionally wrest an ironic image from an exploding helicopter or whatnot, the movie is somewhat drab overall and not particularly amusing or insightful.