Is Anybody There? Movie Review

In John Crowley's Is Anybody There? Michael Caine is Clarence -- a bitter, retired magician slipping into senility and consigned to a family-run old age home. Upon arrival he surveys the landscape of human decrepitude sitting and twitching in the downstairs parlor and mutters, "A lot of jabbering simpletons... You live alone all your life and then they think it's a great idea to shove you in with a bunch of strangers." Clarence, once a popular touring magician with his beloved wife Annie, is now an angry and hateful widower raging at the world.

But there is another lost soul at the old folks home, ten-year-old Edward (Bill Milner), angry at having to give up his room to the dying tenants. His Mum (Anne-Marie Duff) and Dad (David Morrissey) run the facility out of their home in an English seaside town. The recent resident of Edward's room has just died and Clarence has now arrived to take the dead man's place. Edward is obsessed with death and ghosts. When asked why he is so morbid, Edward shouts back, "Because I live here!"

If this sounds like the makings of a formulaic coming-of-age tale (that's right, another one), give yourself a bedpan. Clarence almost runs Edward down in his truck at first meeting and Edward heaves a chunk of soil at the back of Clarence's head. It's hate at first sight. Soon enough you know they are going to bond and Clarence is going to show Edward how to live and Edward is going to show Clarence how to die -- it's Harold and Maude and Where's Poppa? redone as an over-baked Yorkshire pudding.

Initially, Crowley creates a thoroughly despicable atmosphere in the old age home, with the elderly tenants deluded, spiteful, and self-centered, and you can almost smell the musty air. But Peter Harness's screenplay almost immediately does the film in; Is Anybody There? is as obvious as Caine's rancor. The clichés fly so fast that there is no sensible character development. There is not any discernible reason for Clarence and Edward to start hanging around together, they just do. Based upon vivid recollections of old Walter Matthau movies, you know there is going to be a scene where the two sit on a bench and the old guy spills out his regrets (check), a scene where the two leave the home for a wild adventure and worry the boy's parents (check), a scene where the boy gains respect from his peers due to helpful old guy advice (check), and a death scene that takes the characters from misery to extreme happiness (check-check check).

However, the film does have Michael Caine. Caine is one of those few actors who has never give a bad performance even in the most abysmal films (he was even good in Jaws: The Revenge). Caine makes Clarence's anger into a canticle of rage. But just when Clarence's nastiness becomes oppressive, Caine softens things up and sheds a dim light on his buried kindness. And Caine's charm is in evidence during a staging of his magic act for the old-age home residents (a demonstration that goes sadly awry). Unfortunately, Crowley slices and dices Caine's scenes so that it is hard for Caine to get together head of stream. The result is a collection of clips that will look great during awards season but cannot uplift Is Anybody There? from its soft nougat center of hackneyed drivel.

Room for one more.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Starring : , , , Elizabeth Spriggs, , , , , Thelma Barlow, Peter Vaughn


Is Anybody There? Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 2009


More Michael Caine

Stonehearst Asylum Trailer

Stonehearst Asylum follows the plot of Edgar Allen Poe's short story The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether. It is a story about Edward...

Interstellar Trailer

Cooper is a pilot and engineer with a huge ambition to save the world. With little discoveries left to be made on Earth and the...

What Do We Know About Christopher Nolan's Interstellar?

Christopher Nolan and Matthew McConaughey made a surprise visit to the San Diego Comic-Con last week to unveil the full trailer for their new movie,...

Mr Morgan's Last Love Trailer

Matthew Morgan is living in the romantic city of Paris after retiring from his teaching post as a philosophy professor. Despite having lived in France...


Mr. Morgan's Last Love Movie Review

Complex emotions and a gentle exploration of interpersonal connections make this Paris-set drama worth a look, especially since it's so nicely played by the eclectic...

'Escape to Victory' Reboot Set To Capitalize on America's Huge World Cup Following

‘Escape to Victory’ – or simply ‘Victory’ in U.S – captured two emotive subjects for Americans: war and sport. And now a remake is set...

Kingsman: The Secret Service Trailer

A young teen with an incredible IQ and first-rate academic performance takes the wrong path in life by getting involved in drugs and petty crime....

Interstellar Trailer

With the Earth facing a bleak future, pilot and engineer Cooper wants to know how it can possibly be saved from its inevitable demise. The...