Actors: Jessica Alba, Kristin Wiig, Tim Robbins, Tobey Maguire, Will Ferrell
Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Region: Region 1
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: Not Rated
Studio: ANCHOR BAY
DVD Release Date: March 8, 2016
Run Time: 138 minutes
First it was the invention of the DVD and then the popularization of online streaming services, but whatever the reasons behind it, television binge-watching is a phenomenon new to the entertainment industry. Some programming has taken full advantage of the change in how people watch TV, making possible shows like “24” or “Lost,” which require dedicated viewers. And original programming on Netflix or other streaming services seem to lend themselves to these impulsive viewing tendencies, but not all shows are enhanced by binge-watching. In the case of the IFC spoof mini-series, “Eric Jonrosh’s The Spoils of Babylon,” less is more.
Had I been forced to wait a week between the viewing of each episode, I may have found myself embracing the utter silliness of the show, but was forced to watch them one-after-another due to the constraints of writing this review. The humor grows wearisome even in the 30-minute episodes, but completely outstays its welcome if the entire 138-minute run-time of the series is viewed in one sitting. Not even the constant improvised cleverness of Will Ferrell can save the show from feeling repetitious during binge viewing. Of course, there is always the option of watching the episodes individually, but it still feels like the type of humor which may have worked better in ten minute segments for the Funny or Die website. When all of the characters are merely caricatures, some not even played by human actors (one of the key roles is filled by a mannequin), there is nothing for the audience to care about enough to watch for over two hours.
Another problem with “The Spoils of Babylon” comes from the type of entertainment it chooses to spoof, which may have been more effective if it were a genre still popularized today. The aristocratic melodrama calls back to 1970s miniseries, whereas the closest we have to this in modern entertainment are soap operas. Will Ferrell appears to be playing some amalgamation of famous alcoholic writers and Orson Welles, whose appearance became synonymous with over-indulgence in his later years. He introduces each episode of the miniseries, “The Spoils of Babylon,” including the actors playing the roles, who are actors playing actors. This is basically a free pass for the cast to give their best ‘bad acting’ performances.
Tobey Maguire and Kristen Wiig head up the cast as the actors playing the roles of the children of powerful oil tycoon Jonas Morehouse (Tim Robbins).
Devon (Maguire) is adopted, making the romantic relationship
he has with his sister (Wiig) only slightly less tawdry. They bounce back and
forth between romantic longing and battles in business; Cynthia believes in
making money while Devon turns to a life of
environmental concerns, eventually living undersea with a new romantic and
business partner (Jessica Alba). Cynthia marries a passive man (Michael Sheen),
has a child (Haley Joel Osment), and dedicates her life to a business expansion
which directly threatens the work of her adopted brother. As dramatic as these
plot developments are treated in the narrative, they really have no
significance. This is a film about gags, pure and simple.
The DVD release of “The Spoils of Babylon” includes all 6 half-hour episodes from the limited IFC series. All episodes are fit onto one disc, which is easier with no special features to take up space.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10
Historical Significance: 4/10