The Mudge Boy

The Mudge Boy is probably one of the more disturbing films to watch in recent memory, because it obvious that something very bad is going to happen to its title character, Duncan Mudge. Mudge (Emile Hirsch, The Girl Next Door, The Emperor's Club) is still grieving over the death of his mother. This event has put a wedge between him and his father Edgar (Richard Jenkins, Cheaper by the Dozen, Intolerable Cruelty), mainly because Edgar himself is grieving and doesn't know how to deal with Duncan. Duncan really misses his mother. To cope, he dresses in his mother's clothes, and carries around a chicken that was one of her favorites. This earns him the nickname "Chicken Boy" from the other local teens.

The Mudges live on a farm in an out-of-the-way section of Vermont. There are not many people around them, and Edgar spends his time toiling away. The fact of the matter is that if Duncan lived in the city, he would not seem that strange. By living in a relatively secluded area, his strange actions make him even more of an outcast than he would be. Pretty much all of his peers shun him except for Perry (Tom Guiry, Black Hawk Down, Scotland, PA) who has problems of his own. Duncan gravitates towards the misogynistic Perry because he is the only one who is nice to him. Never mind that Perry has a lightning quick temper and is just as likely to be a jerk as he is a friend.

Writer/director Michael Burke (Fishbelly White) masks this overriding sense of danger with an otherwise serene tone. Duncan's farm and the surrounding town look like some small slice of Americana. Except for the ominous rumble of a truck carrying good-for-nothing teens, everything else seems peachy-keen. And this only makes what happens even scarier. Burke's juxtaposition reverses itself with the Duncan and Perry characters. Perry is macho, full of testosterone and rage. Duncan is quiet and withdrawn, and his father feels he is pretty worthless. He is also at the age where he begins to feel new things, and the fact that Perry pays attention to him causes a sort of attraction for Duncan.

This is a pretty slight film. Not much happens for long stretches of time, and it could probably work just as well if it were half an hour long. Strangely, The Mudge Boy does not feel slow. It just feels like this is the pace at which life moves where Duncan lives. Hirsch gives a nice performance. His frailty and vulnerability seem palpable. Jenkins' also ably channels his frustration at his weird son. It is very different than the role's he has chosen so far, and it is shows that he has potential for some emotionally strong stuff. It's pretty obvious where the film is going, and Burke doesn't disappoint (if itís not obvious, just look below at why it received an R rating). He also doesn't really have much to say. The movie just goes on its way, then finishes. All that's left is a haunting feeling of "is that all?" as the credits roll.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 34 minutes, Rated R for strong sexual content, including graphic dialogue, a rape, and language.

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