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"Gods and Generals" Movie Review
What Were They Thinking?


C. Thomas Howell and Jeff Daniels in "Gods and Generals."
©2003 Warner Bros. Pictures


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“Gods and Generals” is an overly long, bloated bit of filmmaking. Sitting through the first hour and a half, it was evident that all but 10 minutes or so of just that particular segment could have easily been left on the cutting room floor. Who in the world would want to sit through nearly four hours of stilted dialogue and saccharine speeches posing as conversation? Even the film's targeted audience (whoever they may be) is going to find nothing to cheer about in this piece of dreck.

From the first uninspired battle scene reenactment to the appearance of C. Thomas Howell (who a fellow critic mistook for Donny Osmond, go figure), “Gods and Generals” is a pitiful prequel to the majestic film, “Gettysburg.” Where “Gettysburg” provided an enthralling glimpse at the history of America, the powers behind “Gods and Generals” must have realized that was too tough a task and went instead for the title of “The most tedious look at the Civil War.” If “Gods and Generals” is to be believed as an accurate portrayal, then it's a wonder either side emerged victorious, what with the pace of conversations and the fact that battles seemingly took place in ultra-slow motion.

“Gods and Generals” is based on Jeff Shaara's best-selling novel of the same name (although if I were Shaara, I'd go back and change the name of my novel just so it won't be in any way connected to this film). Set in the early 1860s just before the battle of Gettysburg, “Gods and Generals” follows Colonel Chamberlain (a surprisingly awful Jeff Daniels), General Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall), and General Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson (Stephen Lang who should immediately enroll in "Over-Actors Anonymous") as each of these men leave the safety of their homes to prepare for the coming hostilities.

The affect of impending war on each of the main characters families also figures prominently in “Gods and Generals.” You'd expect the scenes where husbands and wives confront and comfort each other as the man of the house prepares to leave for battle, to have a little emotional depth to them. Unfortunately, not even these moments play out as genuine. Stilted conversation seems to be the order of the day making it impossible to connect on any level with the characters/historical figures.

“Gods and Generals” would have been better suited as a TV mini-series. As a theatrical release, it fails in all regards. It's not entertaining or educational. Heck, it's impossible to even recommend it with the qualification of “Go just to watch…” Don't go, period. The performances are so over-the-top that not even the normally understated appearance of Robert Duvall can draw attention away from the actors who never seem to forget that a camera is pointing their way.

Overall Grade: F

"Gods and Generals" is rated PG-13 for sustained battle sequences.



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