Review: Donnie Darko sequel S. Darko toys with time ... by wasting ours

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Take everything that made Richard Kelly's 2001 cult film Donnie Darko work—the fragile sense of reality, the scariness of time itself not working the way it's supposed to, the moments of genuine familial love, the amazing re-creation of the zeitgeist of the recent past, the suburban angst, the coming-of-age vibe that compares favorably to that of Holden Caulfield—bring them to Smallville, and put them under Professor Dalton's imperfect Duplicator Ray.

Congratulations! You am just made S. Darko, bizarro direct-to-DVD sequel (20th Century Fox, $22.98) to Donnie Darko! Me am so happy S. Darko am here! Me am going to see S. Darko many times! It am much better than Donnie Darko! Bizarro Ebert put S. Darko on 10-best list!

In a world in which Star Trek, a really great science fiction movie about a tangent universe, is kicking ass and making geeks happy around the world, it's especially difficult to swallow the quantum suckiness of this Bizarro Darko. The plot is nominally about Donnie's kid sister Samantha (she of Sparkle Motion fame, again played by everyone's favorite girl in the well from The Ring, Daveigh Chase) going on a cross-country road trip with her truly bitch-slappable snot of a friend, Corey (Briana Evigan), seven years after Donnie's death.

The girls, who look like they got lost on the way to Burning Man, get stranded in a small town when their car breaks down. There they meet a bunch of wacky, kooky characters as the flow of time and space breaks down again ... for reasons that are murky, and that might be discerned after long and careful consideration that I'm just not interested or intrigued enough to undertake.

S. Darko looks and feels less like a sequel to Donnie Darko than like a student filmmaker's remake of Two-Lane Blacktop, for which he'd get a passing grade only because the professor feels sorry for him. The dialogue is forced and flat, and the early line "She's an ice queen! You need a flamethrower to get inside that!" is just a soft presage of the verbal torture that is the S. Darko script. "We have the same holes in our hearts," and "That rash is gnarly!" are two more spoken gems that are worthy of note in this turd pile.

The movie has no sense of character or flow. What made Donnie Darko's breakdown of reality work was the fact that it was defined by character. Any chump can break reality and add fantastic elements to a story ... look at Uwe Boll. But to make that breakdown of reality not just a plot contrivance but a matter of heart takes real skill and insight that S. Darko director Chris Fisher just don't got.

This is a movie in which the most dramatically fantastic thing that occurs is that a guy thinks it's a good idea to show a cute girl the bedroom of his missing and possibly murdered kid brother as a get-to-know-you-better kinda thing during a party. Sarah Kane or Harold Pinter could make that work in a really creepy way, but I think it's safe to say that the producers of S. Darko didn't look to them for inspiration. There are multiple time loops in this movie, and while that might work in a Bill & Ted movie, the ill-conceived and meandering plot of S. Darko can't bear that kind of chronological shift ex machina, nor can the unique vision that was Donnie Darko bear being the basis of a franchise.

Except on Bizarro World.