Don't Bother Getting Off Your Lardcan To See 'Traveller.'
By Stacey Richter
T RAVELLER IS A mediocre movie, and there's nothing more tiresome. I feel a little sick and confused when I think about how much money and effort it takes to produce a film like this one, which will sink at the box office only to bob up at the video store a few months down the line before being almost totally forgotten. Maybe in 10 years you'll rent a movie, and there'll be an old preview for Traveller at the beginning, and you'll try to remember it, because you lived through the '90s and it seems sad that so much of it didn't sink in. But you won't remember, because Traveller is self-erasing.
I'm not sure it's even worth the effort to explain exactly how and why Traveller is so tepid--I mean, why add to the boredom? It could reach critical mass and then everything would stop. No. Instead, I'd like to mention some especially annoying aspects of the movie in no particular order.
Like, the title--Traveller. What's with the double L? It doesn't look right. It looks misspelled, and this question is never answered to my satisfaction: What is a traveller? In what sense could he be said to be "traveling"? According to the movie, a traveller is a male, small-time con-artist affiliated with a larger family of con artists. I gathered they all lived in trailers. Even the sweet little grandma lived in a trailer. Unlike most trailer-dwellers, they're wealthy, because they con people out of thousands of dollars all the time. They're not allowed to marry "outsiders," although there only seem to be about 30 travellers, including offspring, total. Shouldn't we be seeing a few extra limbs? Also, when the whole family gets together, we hear bagpipe music on the soundtrack. Why?
Bill Paxton is the main-character traveller in the movie (who goes by the name Bokky), and this question is never answered to my satisfaction: What's with Bill Paxton? Is he the Bill Bixby of the '90s? He's bland, he's inoffensively cuddly, he's in everything--but it's impossible to remember his name. This is my definition of Bill Bixby.
Here's a piece of dialogue from Traveller: "Are you going to get up off your lardcan and help, or are you just going to sit there?" This is a prelude to a romantic interlude between a feisty barmaid (Julianna Margulies) and Bokky. All the dialogue in this movie has this same annoying, down-home, twang. Maybe I'm just a city kid, but I don't believe people really talk like this. I think only people in movies meant to be "folksy" talk like this. It reminds me of a Bartelby & James wine cooler commercial with light profanity.
In fact, Traveller as a whole reminded me of other movies. Not any specific movie, just movies. The dialogue is familiar. The characters are retreads. There's a crusty-but-warm-hearted old guy with another funny name--Double D. He gets Bokky into trouble. There's a kid--a young man trying to come of age or something and prove he's a good traveller, too. (The kid is played by Mark Wahlberg, whose performance was one of the two enjoyable parts of the movie. The guy naturally exudes psycho-level malevolence.) They drive around the country conning people, but in almost no time Paxton is filled with remorse so he stops the cons. The scenes where he conned people were the second enjoyable part of the movie.
I think there was an undercurrent of racial prejudice in Traveller, but, like the bagpipe music, I couldn't quite figure it out. I was annoyed to find the bad guy was referred to only as "the Turk." He was played by a bald actor with bad skin and seemed a pleasant enough guy, even though Double D and Paxton kept saying he's a jerk. I wondered if they considered him a jerk because he was a Turk, and I also wondered what's so offensive about Turks. Didn't they give the world Turkish Delight?
But the biggest annoyance of Traveller is that to view it is to lose two hours of time that can never be retrieved. If Traveller didn't exist in time, but only took up space, it wouldn't be as annoying. It would be better still if it existed in neither time nor space.
Traveller opens Friday, May 9, at Catalina (881-0616) cinema.
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