Bringing Up Bobby

Naughty con-artist Olive (Milla Jovovich) is a single mother with a bratty kid Bobby (Spencer List) and a terrible Ukrainian accent. After a series of disappointingly-boring frauds, Olive is sent to jail for 8 months, during which Bobby is sent to live with foster parents Kent (Bill Pullman) and Mary (Marcia Cross). Kent and Mary are both a) good parents and b) emotionally distraught after the loss of their own young son – an excellent starting point for any stable home, you’ll agree.

Bringing Up Bobby had the odds stacked against it from the every beginning; a first time director, a less-than-stellar lead, a snotty blonde kid with a bowl haircut, and a synopsis so unenticing that rats feeding off the rubbish behind an abortion clinic wouldn’t go near it. Bringing Up Bobby lives up to these expectations and then some. It doesn’t suffer from terrible acting, or low-budget production values, or even a poor script (although it flirts with all three properties at one time or another), it’s just incredibly, unendurably boring.

Milla Jovovich is pretty much what you’d expect. The camera loves her, she looks striking whenever she’s on screen, and she’s trying -so- hard to act. Occaisonally she even looks as though she’s actually feeling things. Her whole performance is marred, however, by an uneven Ukrainian accent (think of her accent in Zoolander but not a parody) and just abysmal direction choices. A moment late in the film sees Milla Jovovich staring at her son through a window being consoled by his new foster parents and making a life-changing decision, and she’s actually pretty convincing for a moment, but there’s a honking ba-bump ba-bump sound effect over the performance that ruins any investment we may have had in the scene. It’s cheap. It’s corny. It’s Bringing Up Bobby.

No other performances stand out as especially good or bad – these people simply seem to stand around on set, occasionally shuffling their feet awkwardly as if they’re slowly realising that their careers have finally hit rock bottom. Rory Cochrane‘s Oklahoma bum is simply awful comic relief, and will probably have you squinting at the screen to see whether or not he’s actually Danny Dyer. At least that’s mildly diverting. Bill Pullman begins by being vaguely distracting before descending into imitating Martin Sheen imitating a robot. Marcia Cross might be considered a foil, except she too remains flat throughout, even when discussing her stupid dead kid. Do you remember the low-budget thriller The Hand That Rocks The Cradle? Probably not, but in that film Rebecca De Mornay showed the world exactly how to play a crazy emotional cradle-snatcher role. This doesn’t even come close.

The titular Bobby is barely worth considering, his frequent quips and adult-banter with Rory Cochrane and Milla Jovovich painful to sit through. Everyone throughout the film is constantly fawning over the pre-pubescent little shite-monster, and we’re given no reason why. This kid is hateful. Worst of all is when Bringing Up Bobby attempts “pathos”. Bobby is thrown a dramatic scene here and there, but these moments are stuffed with more cheese than fondue strained through a hobo’s socks. It’s ridiculously uninteresting.

Speaking of deeply concerning mental images, there’s a pervasive Oedipal theme running throughout Bringing Up Bobby. Why is Milla Jovovich always grabbing her kid’s face? Stroking his cheeks, hugging him, touching him far longer than is comfortable? It reaches S-level creep factor when she repeatedly crawls into his bed at night and sleeps next to him. That’s not healthy, Olive, maybe the government were nipping that in the bud when they shoved you in prison.

If you make it all 93 minutes through the film, good for you. It’s a slog. Every twist and turn in Bringing Up Bobby suggests perhaps an interesting development, or a chance for the actors to stretch their muscles, but nothing ever comes of it. The end is so staggeringly sudden and anti-climatic that you’ll be left blinking in the dull flicker from the screen, screaming “Is that it? THANK GOD THAT WAS IT”. Bringing Up Bobby‘s worst crime is that it does not know how inconsequential it is. It might be trying to say something about being a good parent, the drama of custody battles or sacrificing everything for you progeny, but honestly, who the hell cares? The only upshot is that there’s no way the human brain can sustain the memory of this film for more than an afternoon. Dull dull dull.

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