Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, May 24, 1999

Just another freak, in the freak kingdom.

Special features

Deleted Scenes7
Making Of4

Perhaps the purest of Thompson’s searches for the American Dream because it is untainted by politics; or perhaps the most pointless for the same reason, as politics have tainted the American Dream since the Adams anti-sedition acts almost as soon as the country was born.

RecommendationPurchase Now!
DirectorTerry Gilliam
WritersHunter S. Thompson, Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni, Tod Davies, Alex Cox
Movie Rating9
Transfer Quality10
Overall Rating9
  • Enhanced Widescreen

If you like the book, you’ll like the movie. It is the best adaption of book to movie that I have ever seen. The DVD is pristine, and one of the deleted scenes is nearly worth the cost of the DVD on its own. Directory Terry Gilliam’s sense of timing is on target in the movie, and he focuses in on just the right combination of weirdness and insight. This was the first DVD that I purchased, even before buying a DVD player, and it remains my most-watched movie.

This really is a beautifully filmed movie, and the choices for soundtrack were right on target. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about this movie, but only from people who, when pressed, admit that they didn’t like the book either. Hunter wrote a brilliant book about the quest for the American dream, about the search for a higher truth in commercialism and the rejection of commercialism, the belief in one true answer for everything. And Gilliam picked this up and focused in on it, stripping away everything except the excesses of modern American culture’s search for this fake truth.

Let’s get right to the heart of this thing: if you can’t see this in the book, you probably won’t see it in the movie either. But what you need to do is tie yourself down with no drugs and watch it back to back forty-two times until you understand. Too much, too much!

When it comes down to it, the “American Dream,” once liberty, peace, and understanding, and the right to the pursuit of happines, has become simply instant gratification. In that guise it is always doomed to failure. Thompson contrasts the “forces of old and darkness” in Las Vegas and in the law enforcement community with the “forces of right”. They didn’t expect to win by working. “Our energy would simply prevail.” And while in the end there is a real difference between the Vegas gambler who expects that the next twenty dollar bill they put down will make them rich, and the “pathetically eager acid freak” who believes that the next hit of acid will grant them peace and understanding, the difference is only in motives. The end result is the same: failure. There is no light at the end of the tunnel drawing us forward. If we wish to move forward, we need to move their ourselves.

One thing in the story that gets ignored is the Mint 500. Thompson has placed hope in the dregs, who are willing to forego instant gratification for an “endurance test”. But the rest of the players quickly forget the Mint 500, and don’t even know who won, because that would require staying the course. It would require “getting the job done,” except that the real job is simply to get what you want and get it now. In this sense, Thompson’s work is very similar to Nelson Algren’s books about America reflected in Chicago. People want the easy way out, but the easy way out is doomed to failure. Mankind is not doomed to failure, but may be doomed to not realize this until it is too late.

Recommendation: Purchase Now!

DirectorTerry Gilliam
WritersHunter S. Thompson, Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni, Tod Davies, Alex Cox
ActorsJohnny Depp, Benicio del Toro
Spoken languageEnglish
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
Special FeaturesDeleted Scenes, Interviews, Making Of, Trailer
More links

If you enjoyed Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas…

For more about Benicio del Toro, you might also be interested in The Usual Suspects.

For more about drug, you might also be interested in Altered States, Animal House, Dazed and Confused, Detroit Rock City, Heavy Metal, and Yellow Submarine.

For more about Hunter S. Thompson, you might also be interested in A dark and bloody ground: Hunter S. Thompson, Hunter S. Thompson Dead, Better Than Sex, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972, Generation of Swine, Hell’s Angels, Songs of the Doomed, and The Great Shark Hunt.

For more about Johnny Depp, you might also be interested in A Nightmare on Elm Street and Edward Scissorhands.

For more about satire, you might also be interested in Being There, Dark Star, Fahrenheit 451, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, South Park Volume 1 through 6, Wag the Dog, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Team America, Fuck Yeah!, Thank You For Smoking, Florence Foster Jenkins is Hillary Clinton, Better Than Sex, Doonesbury, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972, Generation of Swine, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, Mike Royko’s Opinions, Mike Royko: A Life in Print, Songs of the Doomed, The Complete Lewis Carroll, The Desert Peach, The Futurological Congress, The Great Shark Hunt, The Siege of Harlem, Satire isn’t comedy, Satire in the vineyard: The parable of Lolita and the sheep, The definitional war on satire, Gamergate spreads to tabletop gaming?, DriveThruRPG: satire not appropriate for current events?, and The Walkerville Weekly Reader.

For more about Terry Gilliam, you might also be interested in The Life of Brian.