The Bonfire of the Vanities - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Bonfire of the Vanities Reviews

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June 21, 2017
Brian De Palma's The Bonfire of the Vanities is not in the sense of the word a consistent movie (its actors seem to only be great when they feel like it), the satire is sometimes cringingly unfunny, and I paused the movie once in frustration. But, halfway through the movie, I realized that I was genuinely enjoying its good qualities, so therefore I give the movie three stars despite of its gaping imperfections.
January 20, 2017
I saw this movie yesterday on HBO. At first, I did not like the movie. It felt painful to watch because it was easy to know that the lead characters (and everyone else) was making poor judgment and none would secure a good outcome. But the movie proved to be morally tugging. On my third try, I stayed on long enough to see a twist in the plot and, from that moment on, the movie became cathartic. Yes, it is a cynical movie about greed, lust and vanity. But there is an equally subterranean belief and decency and goodness has intrinsic value. Morgan Freeman's performance is superb. I can see that the movie was a flop. Perhaps it only illustrates how we want instant excitement and become less and less willing to wait till the plot (and life) unfolds. Learning is a slow process too. Wait a little longer and don't walk away too soon.
October 30, 2016
Time--and the overall shitfest of summer movies over the past two decades--have been kind to the legacy of this film. It's not nearly as bad as most people seem to remember it was. And you can always learn something from a Brian DePalma film.
½ September 10, 2016
9/10/2016: The cast is known for their comedy, but this is not a comedic movie and there was not a single laugh though out. It should be considered a drama, making it ok at best.
August 14, 2016
Was really hoping this would be an overlooked gem but it really is as bad as everyone says it is. Just read the book, which is good.
½ July 10, 2016
Heavy handed, tone deaf attempt at comedy by the wrong director, with the wrong star. Easily Tom Hanks's worst performance, as he mugs beyond belief - a rare misfire for the great actor. Most likely due to the ham-fisted direction by Brian DePalma, who's great at thrillers but not well suited for comedy or satire.
½ July 2, 2016
This was a script best passed over. The script is so poorly written and condensed, it is an inexcusable abomination of the depth and message story Wolfe's novel is trying to convey. The casting bastardized the roles by taking only a fragment of the depth of the characters, and using it as a hopeless last-minute effort/strategy to support its lazy script.
July 7, 2015
As a satire it was a poor one. And as a comedy even worse. Put it on the bonfire
½ April 24, 2015
Successfully underutilized the talent of some great actors early in their careers. At least Morgan Freeman can hold his head high on this one.
½ March 31, 2015
This boisterous adaption of Tom Wolfe's seminal satire is ultimately a failure but it's not nearly as bad as its reputation. There are some inspired directorial flourishes from DePalma and a few scenes that really work but poor casting and a unsubtle script prevent this flick from living up to its potential. The biting satire is softened to make the protagonist Sherman McCoy (Tom Hanks) more likable but that takes all of the fun out of watching his fall from grace, making the viewer just feel sorry for him. The dialogue is completely lacking in subtly, with a "tell-not-show" attitude towards adapting Wolfe's wry wit. While the novel was an equal opportunity referendum on every race, color and creed in Manhattan, the film saves most of its scorn for African Americans and Jews, leaving white rich guys like Sherman McCoy looking like innocent victims of low-rent attorneys, aspiring Jewish politicians, streetwise thugs and opportunistic black preachers. The casting of Morgan Freeman as the Judge is a clear attempt to diffuse this racial tension but the choice makes no sense, is horribly contrived and his preachy monologues are embarrassingly overwritten. Furthermore, the sanitized, happy(ish) ending completely defeats the entire moral of the story. However, credit is due to DePalma for staying relatively close to the plot of the epic-length novel quite in a relatively breezy fashion. For that reason, the only real purpose for watching this film is if you have a test on the book for your A.P. English class tomorrow and you haven't started reading the 700-page book. In that case good luck and for god's sake, just do your homework next time.
½ March 25, 2015
Wow was this a bad cinema year for Hanks with this bomb and Joe versus....
½ February 25, 2015
I didn't read the book. As a satire, I must admit that this movie was comically entertaining, and I did not feel at all as though I wasted my two hours of time, as I do so with most of the crap put out nowadays. I would suggest that for some critics of this movies, the caracitures put forth during this film hit too close to home for them to feel good about laughing at it. The drunken New York journalist, the narcissitic socialite, the money-grubbing reverned, even the injured kids own mother are all portrayed as soul-less. But this is the fun in it, no one is spared, except the innocent guy in the end. There are some really funny parts in this one too, like when Jeraldo shows up, or the joke about the plane wing, or when the party claps at Sherman shooting up the place. This movie is classic 80's common sense filmmaking, and go ahead and see it, unless you're a New York social blowhard.
January 21, 2015
Far from "good" or "recommendable," but nowhere near deserving its infamous awful reputation.
October 19, 2014
An unmitigated disaster and complete bowdlerization of Tom Wolfe's best-selling novel that turns the satirical tale of reckless Wall Street greed, undone by self-serving racial politics, into heavy-handed moralism. Adapted by Michael Christofer and Produced and Directed by Brian De Palma, the end result - one of the worst book to film adaptations - is a series of compromises and miscalculations. In almost every major role, the casting is wrong-headed. Virtuous Tom Hanks is ruinous as the deceitful, narcissistic bond trader Sherman McCoy, who flees from an accident in the Bronx leaving a black youth incapacitated, setting off a sanctimonious pursuit for justice. McCoy is more likable, but less compelling, as he has been made into a hapless victim. The complex characters of Wolfe's novel have been reduced to caricatures - both racist and misogynistic. Melanie Griffith is annoyingly shrill as Hanks' lover; Bruce Willis is feckless as the alcoholic reporter; Kim Cattrall is monotonous; Morgan Freeman is wasted. (Freeman's big scene concludes with an address to the courtroom, in which he lectures us on ethics, that is embarrassing.) Wolfe's contempt for Wall Street excess has been cheapened. New York's omnipresent racial and social tension, caused by a callous disregard for the minority underclass by privileged whites, has been fatally softened. De Palma incorporates his virtuoso long tracking shots, split screens, and incongruous framing to minimal effect. Willis supplies the terrible narration. Cinematography is by Vilmos Zsigmond. Music is by Dave Grusin. With Saul Rubinek, Alan King, John Hancock as Rev. Bacon, Donald Moffat, Andre Gregory, Kirsten Dunst, Geraldo Rivera, Rita Wilson, and an uncredited F Murray Abraham. (Julie Salamon documented the making of the movie, a fascinating and insightful insider view of how a movie can fail so miserably, in the book "The Devil's Candy: Anatomy Of A Hollywood Fiasco.")
½ August 4, 2014
Self-absorbed, ridiculously carried-away trash that thinks it's way more edgy and pertinent than it actually is. An adaptation of a popular novel, it's clearly the victim of a studio mandate to swing hard, if not particularly accurately. It's loaded with starpower, with Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith and Morgan Freeman sharing the spotlight, but none can help their sailing astronomically over the top with the material. Each character is more selfish and despicable than the last, even Freeman's grandstanding judge and Hanks's over-his-head bond trader on trial as political fodder. Lofty hunks of social commentary are swung around with all the subtlety of a war hammer, belaboring the point until we all lay bruised, bloodied and beaten on the floor. Potentially-pointed stereotypes get played like aces, but fail to register as more than a long series of cartoon characters with a big vocabulary. It's confused, sneering and wretched; no surprise it could only attract flies at the box office.
½ April 8, 2014
A boring, forgettable, and pointless 2 hr. 6 min. This is probably the worst film I have seen Tom Hanks in. He is one of my favorite actors in the business, but here he is under a script that has both bland dialogue and bland characters. I was bored so many times throughout I almost fell asleep. This is labeled as a comedy? This movie completely fails as a comedy because there is hardly any comedic moments and it also fails to be an effective drama. I did feel that Tom Hanks and Morgan Freeman tried with the sloppy material they were given, because there were some scenes where they were trying to bring life to a lifeless film. Bruce Willis's character to me was pointless throughout and the movie tries too hard to convince you that he is important to the story when he actually wasn't. Even though Morgan Freeman did good in the final scene, it felt too much like your sappy Hollywood ending. When the film ends, you wish to yourself that you should have watched Scarface instead, Brian DePalma's much more superior movie.
February 1, 2014
1983's Scarface Is One Of My Favorite Films.
December 6, 2013
Wow -
I was expecting a horrible movie, like Charles Dickens turned into Dr. Suess or Ernest Hemingway rewritten as a Teletubbies' episode.
It was movie that I now have seen 23-years after it was released & deserves very little scathing insipid remarks that have been libelously espoused.
Never heard of the book, no one born after 1980 cares about it.
But the movie should have had Morgan Freeman narrating it, than the approval rating would be elevated by 60+% at least.
Maybe I'll watch it again in a year, but in 1990, Home Alone, TMNT, Dick Tracy, Days of Thunder, these combined for over 500+ million USD but The Bonfire of the Vanities was better.
October 25, 2013
The book was a great look at the excess of the 80's. The movie is weak with actors being miscast (Hanks, Willis). Characters are changed from the book to fit into a story with no bite.
September 14, 2013
The narrative stays faithful to Tom Wolfe's novel, even if the dialog isn't quite up to the standards of the man in the white suit. "Bonfire of teh Vanities" still delivers an unflinching look at how people's prejudices shape their views on news events, and how politicians use race to manipulate the people. It's not Tom Hanks's best role, and Melanie Griffith seems totally miscast. The absurd tragicomedy of the novel still lives in the movie, with the added redemption of McCoy after his fall.
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