Owen Wilson and Lake Bell and their two lovely young daughters arrive in the Third World country of Cambolaonamland (it was filmed in Thailand and was probably meant to be Cambodia, though no country is actually named) just in time for the assassination of the Prime Minister and the beginning of truly horrifying riots targeting anyone with white skin. The carnage is incredible, and actually way beyond anything I can recall concerning Europeans, but it could happen, I guess.
Almost from the first minutes it is a series of narrow escapes, and what else is new, right? … Except I found most of them at least theoretically possible, and I liked that. Another thing I liked is that these people could get hurt, and get tired, and hungry, like actual people do. By the end, they are scraped up pretty badly. And though the little girls were pains in the ass … again, they behaved a lot like real little girls would. I thought the unusual casting of Wilson, best known for his comedy, worked surprisingly well. And the wife, after some initial hesitation while she adjusted to the new and horrible parameters of their world, didn’t spend any time cowering in fright. She waded into the fights right along with her husband.
I saw several reviews that really took this movie to task for racism, and I want to address that. There were terms used like “mindless, savage yellow hordes.” Well, yeah, it’s Cambodia, which has a history of gruesomeness that dwarfs anything we see here. You want mindless, murdering black hordes? I give you Rwanda. How about brown? All you have to say is ISIS. Whites? Ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia. No race has a monopoly on bloody-mindedness.
Then there was the business about how awful it was that we were supposed to care about these four white people when thousands of Asians were being slaughtered, as well. There was the same complaint voiced about the white family among the 200,000 or so dead Thais and Indonesians in the film The Impossible. Well, what do you expect? How can we care for those thousands of dead, except in a documentary? I care deeply, but this is drama, folks, and we have to focus down on a small group.
I would be happy to watch a drama about a Cambodian family caught up in the Rodney King riots, or Hurricane Katrina, but you know what? Not many other Americans would. We don’t know these people, we need stars we can identify with. It will have to be up to Cambodians, or Thais, or Indonesians, to make those films.