VIDEO: Donnie Darko (2001)

Mr. Mendo is back to take on yet another overrated indie film: Donnie Darko, the needlessly obtuse story of a schizophrenic boy, the 6-foot rabbit that visits him in the night, and the jet engine that falls on him. Also, there’s some stuff in here about time travel and the end of the world. And Patrick Swayze is a child molesting motivational speaker. This synopsis makes more sense than the movie.

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  • SA

    So…you secretly like it?

    • Michael A. Novelli

      No. Why?

  • Cristiona

    Man… fuck this movie.

    While, Frank looked cool, I’m just not sure why you’d dress as a demonic rabbit for Halloween.

  • starofjustice

    I have to agree with most of this video, especially the one about people on TVTropes. It’s kind of fun, in a really nerdy way, but there are people who get way too into it. Hell, one of them came here and tried to tell us none of us got that cartoon about the Looney Tunes as superheroes in the future.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      Oh, I’m sure he’s still kicking around here somewhere…

  • gasmaskangel

    You know, it’s very satisfying to me on a personal level to see this movie torn apart. This movie hurt me on a personal level after I watched it with a bunch of pretentious people who then had to explain it to me for four fucking hours after I said I didn’t care for it.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      I imagine you showed them Cannibal Holocaust in retribution?

      • gasmaskangel

        City of the Dead actually.

    • Youfeelingluckypunk27

      I just watched it because Seth Rogen was in it… and I’m a big fan of him.

  • Chris Swanson

    Love the bear pride flag. :P

    • Michael A. Novelli

      I gotta hold it down for my peoples…

  • Mike

    Finally, somebody curbstomps this piece of crap.

  • kennzeichen1d

    Let ´em have it! Snot nosed little hipster brats of motion pictures, think they so smart…

  • Carl Schulz IV

    Everyone I ever talked to about this movie said it was brilliant, but when I finally saw it I just… didn’t get it. Glad to see I’m not the only one.

    • I don’t mean to reply so much, but what you wrote reminds me what all my friends (at the time) said of Kalifornia, with Mulder pre-X Files/Brad Pitt pre-Seven.

  • Monterey Jack

    I like this film (along with The Box…never saw Southland Tales) mainly for the sheer atmosphere of the storytelling, but agree that Kelly, while talented, is fatally obsessed with making generally simple sci-fi concepts as obtuse and baffling as possible in an attempt to make deliberate cult movies, an idea which rarely works. I like ambiguity as much as the next pretentious movie buff, but there’s “letting the audience decide” and there’s “deliberately withholding important plot information to piss the viewer off”.

    That said, they DID explain the numbers on Lost, dammit.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      Catch me at the right moment, and I might charitably tell you that I kinda like The Box, but I honestly remember NOTHING about it…

    • Cristiona

      Ugh. The box was terrible, and it was completely Kelly’s fault. What started as a simple moral choice was utterly ruined by Kelly needing to shove in his sci-fi bullshit about aliens and God knows what else. It made no sense and was so completely unnecessary.

      It reminds me of some guys I knew in college who thought they were exceptionally deep when really they were just tools.

      • “It reminds me of some guys I knew in college who thought they were exceptionally deep when really they were just tools.”

        Seems the “deep” ones were either on pot, or just talked Marxism without living the Marxism life. (i.e. gripe about corporations while they wear their Levi’s, listen to their iPods, drink their Coke, drive their Honda, watch their Cox Cable, etc. It’s funny, damnit, funny!)

        The other “deep” ones seemed pretty shallow, quoting Final Fantasy VII and talking with a funny, strange accent, and really weird words. They want to be “smart”, but come off more retarded than that Elmo from Sesame Street. At least Elmo uses words correctly.

        Oh, wait, I just described The Box!

  • chansterooni

    I really hated this movie and it brings out the worse type of snobs – people who have nothing to do than overanalyze crappy movies. This and the Butterfly Effect does that to certain people. The Box was horrible, IMHO.

    • Steve Potter

      The Box was a pile of crap! Even worse than Knowing.

  • Cactusjack

    I love your videos. Great video. I loved your display of the bear flag :D

  • Tim Terrell

    I agree w/ Novelli about this about this movie. A friend who loved it showed it to me, and while it looked good, I felt it was vague, confusing and ultimately boring in a pretty wrapper. Especially the forced tension in the family because two members disagreed about “Dukakis”.

    I thought there would be a lot of Darko fans defending the movie on this message board, but apparently not.

    • Sam

      I don’t think anyone’s defending it here because no one comes to this website anymore. Otherwise there would probably be a handful defending it.

      • Yeah, um that’s kind of true. I haven’t been in almost a year. Didn’t realize the site had been taken over by the chubby Caucasian Armond White.

        Oh, and btw, the movie is about a wrinkle in time and Donnie seeing the causality behind random events. Guess I’m just “pretending” to get it cause I’m so pretentious. Watch the director’s cut, you chowder heads.

        • Michael A. Novelli

          I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it doesn’t matter if the director’s cut is better, we’re not talking about the director’s cut, we’re talking about the actual film. If anything, the existence of a better version of the same film just gives creedence to the argument that the film in question is not as good as people say it is.

          Also, why is it people who try to demean my intellegence feel the need to bring up my weight? This is a logical disconnect that I fail to grasp…

          • I’m tons fatter than you, and by extension, far, far dumber and I loved this movie. Go figure.

        • Steve Potter

          Armond White? Really? You’re going to compare Mr. Mendo, a fully logical and reasonable amateur film critic to the hack-of-all-hacks, professional troll that is Armond White?

          Also, I’ve seen the Director’s Cut. I can follow the movie, but I can’t honestly say I fully understand everything. I can enjoy it for the story, but it’s a movie that can be ripped apart. NOTHING is perfect.

  • Darko reminds me of a movie “everybody” (whomever they are) proclaims as “great” (whatever that is). Maybe I prefer better movies, or worse movies (like schlocky grindhousing), but this movie just bored me to death. Bravo to Our Man in Afghanistan for destroying it as it needed to be done. (Unlike Independence Day, Final Fantasy Spirits Within (fun without), and The Matrix, I will not be taping over VHS tapes I find at thrift stores, as I’ve never seen Darko on VHS to tape over.)

  • P.

    You should have that bear flag of yours in every single video you make from now on, I think.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      No worries, it will be…

  • Olaf_the_Lofty

    I couldn’t see anything great about this, but then I was too old (getting on for forty) when I saw it. My main verdict afterwards was that if I was going to watch a film about a nutter who talks to a giant anthropomorphic rabbit, I’d rather it was “Harvey”.

    Why was the world going to end if Donnie didn’t get squished by the jet engine? That I don’t see at all.

  • Delawheredad

    This is one of those “nerd cred” movies that divides its audience into those who CLAIM to get it and see it as the deepest film of the 90’s and the rest who see it for the piece of pretentious crap that it is. Usually, the bigger the nerd the more they love this movie. This review exposes what a convoluted mess this film really is. Its deep in the sense a freshman philosophy major is “deep.” It claims to see the world as it “really is” and it you don’t get it there is something wrong with YOU!
    Johnny Darko is a facile stew of half baked ideas JUST LIKE a lot of nerdy teenagers, which is why they love it .

    Keep up the good work!

    • Waffleavenger

      ‘Its deep in the sense a freshman philosophy major is “deep.” ‘

      So, from regularly taking it up the ass?

      …Sorry, sorry, couldn’t resist.

      Seriously though, the only good part in this movie is Patrick Swayze bawling his eyes out. I couldn’t stop laughing the first time I saw that scene.

  • Thombo_1

    Couldn’t stop laughing after the Ralph Wiggum clip. Donnie Darko boils down to that, essentially.

    “He told me to BURN things!”

  • Youfeelingluckypunk27

    First thing: I’m a big Seth Rogen fan, and despite his very small role in the film I partly saw it for him. He is by trade a comedy actor, but his debut performance in a film (A dramatic one, no less!) was sublimely understated, never once breaking his character Ricky’s cold hard glare.

    I also might have found it a little slow in places, and maybe a bit boring, but the film was interesting, weird and visually impressive. In fact, it was something of an artistic masterpiece despite the glaring plot holes.

    • “never once breaking his character Ricky’s cold hard glare”

      I’m pretty sure that’s usually known as “wooden acting”.

      • Michael A. Novelli

        I know not of this Ricky, but I know his career prior to Zack and Miri consists mostly of a show I didn’t watch and two or three movies I didn’t like, so I say put the past to rest! Except Pineapple Express. That film can also suck it…

        • Youfeelingluckypunk27

          And you, therefore, are like your own opinion of Pineapple Express.

        • Youfeelingluckypunk27

          Because I love the actor everyone seems to hate@

        • Youfeelingluckypunk27

          And you, therefore, are like your own opinion of Pineapple Express, because the reason I watched this film is because I’m a big Seth Rogen fan.

      • Youfeelingluckypunk27

        Maybe not to the extent of Jake Gyllenhaal, but compared to some of Seth’s typecast roles his performance in Donnie Darko was pretty impressive.

  • And here I thought it was a sweet Twilight Zone-esque comedy/drama about a kid who gives his life to save his girlfriend. Ah well, I’ll still think of it that way.

  • handsome pete

    I love the film but I know plenty of people who get nothing out of it, and that’s all there is to it. Although for the record, I don’t think Donnie is supposed to be a misunderstood outcast. Also, you can ignore whatever Richard Kelly says about the film, I don’t think he gets it at all.

  • Youfeelingluckypunk27

    You know what would piss off the entire internet? Giving an honest reason why you LIKED a film.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      You make it sound as though I’m anything but honest…

    • Michael A. Novelli

      You make it sound as though I’m anything but honest…

      • Youfeelingluckypunk27

        Well, you post reasons on the internet about why you honestly dislike a film. So, no I didn’t mean to sound like that.

        • Michael A. Novelli

          Ah. OK, then…

  • Kev

    Thank you, Mendo. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I think it would be cool if you did the other overrated hipster sacred cow from the Early 2000’s, the Coldplay to Donnie Darko’s Radiohead, A Scanner Darkly.

    But if I could offer one constructive criticism (my only one, actually), don’t talk so fast. It hurts your jokes and makes you appear uncomfortable in front of the camera.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      Nah, I’m just naturally a fidgety sort of person (especially after turning the A/C off to film). Believe me, I actually talk MUCH faster in real life, smoking on camera really helps.

      Funny you should bring that up, as I was think about doing A Scanner Darkly at some point. So much wasted potential…

  • Guest

    It’s art, not math.

    You sound jaded.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      Oddly enough, I am jaded. So, we’re on the same page?

  • S P Erangey

    Ok, look, I don’t go on the internet much. In fact, this is the only website of this kind that I visit. I don’t know what TV Tropes is, I have no idea what ‘AVGN’ means, and I certainly, certainly don’t see the point of going after Donnie Darko. As such, your output appeals to me less and less.

    I haven’t been on internet forums with people trying to batter into my head how brilliant it is – I saw the film because I wanted to watch it. When all’s said it done, it’s a film that ranks somewhere in the middle – not the greatest film ever made (nowhere near, in fact), but hardly a complete disaster either. Dedicating an entire episode to it didn’t feel like a much needed public service to me – it felt like you were scrapping the bottom of the barrel.

    And you didn’t nail it in the way you’ve nailed other movies like Ishtar or Forrest Gump. All you’ve done is mentioned a bunch of reasons and cultural references that anyone could’ve made (including people who like the movie).

    You’ve mentioned in your previous comments on other videos that you’re trying to do more recent films to appeal to as many people as possible. No. If you want more people to visit the site, you need to aim at more casual internet users who might not know the concept, and just reviewing any film made since the beginning of the millenium (or anything that people happen to like that you didn’t) isn’t enough.

    If you’re going to do independent movies, could you at least do ones that are genuinely awful. Like Fred: The Movie (I know, I’m contradicting my point my using a film based on a Youtube phenomenon, but I didn’t know that when I saw it, so I just thought it’s an awful film)

    I’m not angry, I’m just upset. I’d just like something that speaks to me.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      Um, I’m not sure how only casually using the internet gives one insight on how to do a review show better, but since this particular episode is causing such a stir that one guy felt the need to write and record a diss rap about it on YouTube, I think I’m reaching people just fine. Thanks for the advice though, and as always, thank you for your patronage!

  • Ed

    Good stuff, Michael.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      Count on me!

  • Strelnikov

    This movie just expands on the old snarky remark “he’s a legend in his own mind”….for the month Donnie is in the alternate timeline he gets to do all the exciting crap he never could because he is constantly being told by the rabbit that the world is ending.

    I personally always saw “Donnie Darko” as a mood piece on late 1980s suburbia; the plot is a giant shaggy dog story full of red herrings and pointlessly trippy BS – take that stuff away and it’s a teen movie about 1980s teen movies. I agree with you Mr. Novelli; if it were not for that soundtrack, this film loses it’s hook. I would also have to say that the events of 2001 and the Bush decade sort of built an audience for this film, because all the authority figures in the picture are idiots and the protagonist sees through them in a heartbeat….in a way, this movie is the “WarGames” of 2001.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      I can’t tell if you’re making Donnie Darko look worse in comparison, or pointing out how thin WarGames is, but either way, good observation…

  • guest

    I don’t understand you or your way of critisizing. You started by saying the film’s plot didn’t make sense which made me think you weren’t really worth listening to but then at the end you explain what happenned in the film quite accurately as if you understood it quite easily. Isn’t that contradicting yourself? Then you are saying how pointless a certain scene is (like the Smurfs discussion scene) and immediately afterwards you explain what the scene added to the narrative (like Donnie going into a crazy rant over Smurfs emphasizing how he is a little crazy).

    And seriously now, was a 20 minute review necessary to tell us what was bad about Donnie Darko. Why do you waste time with cheesy jokes and easy jabs that don’t even really count as criticism? You could have just said “Donnie stands up to the Man who happens to be a cartoonish, idiotic kiddiefiddler and we’re supposed to sympathize with him because we’re edgy social outcasts” and in that way you could save all of our collective time, make an actual clear point and gain my respect because you say what you think and don’t hide it behind inane quips and shoehorned pop references.

    Basically I get the feeling you try to be funny as you say what you think but you can’t seem to make the two things seam together. The result is that you do a few deadpan jokes which aren’t very convincing because they aren’t actual opinions but some insubstantial one-liners and every now and then you add what you think about the film.

    Also, you seem to take user comments and criticism (not even bloody insults) very personally which is very bad practice as a personality of any sort and especially as a comedian. I think you should either reflect on what people have to say about you or ignore it. Every poster you respond to condescendingly is a possible follower who now thinks you are a dick.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      I don’t take anything anyone says seriously. I can take criticisms, I am, after-all, a big boy. ;-)

      As someone who is new to my show, I’ll catch you up by saying that my style comes from the experience of watching the film for the very first time. As such, it would be out of character for me to “get” things right away, as opposed to later on when I would have had the chance to mull them over a bit.

      Superficial? Perhaps, but I think taking an informal approach tells us more about the film as a whole. It doesn’t pay to get bogged down in the details, especially with a film like this.

      And while I admit I am a very snarky and sarcastic person in general, I believe in participating in the discussions, and will defend my positions. However, it’s all with love…

  • This movie introduced the world to Seth “America found me funny for about five minutes, but now i just keep playing the same thing over and over again, and everyone sees me for the one trick pony that I am, but even though I no longer make successful movies Hollywood keeps ramming me down everyones throats, and now I’m like John Belushi in that SNL skit ‘The Thing That Wouldnt Leave” Rogen. For that alone, every copy of this film should be burned.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      Now, now, I think we can place equal blame on the baffling post-series cultdom of Freaks and Geeks just as much as the baffling post-theatrical cultdom of Donnie Darko for that one.

      Seriously, why Freaks and Geeks, people? Does watching Degrassi make you feel self-conscious?

  • CBob

    I liked this movie, but then I willfully ignored the mythology stuff (you’re right in your criticisms of that). To me all the contradictory weirdness was all because the POV character has delusional psychosis issues. In that capacity I found it well done (I had a friend with issues like this in high school). It’s more of a character and mood study than a proper story. Kinda like “Lost in Translation”.

    …Which I’ll admit would make it not really a complete movie by many people’s definition. I’m okay with that sort of thing myself though. Not every song or painting or book has to be a story, so I see no reason why movies can’t have a similar variety of purpose.

    One thing I’ve never seen pointed out is how fundamentally borked the causality is in the whole time loop concept, if you assume that it’s reality (like the director seems too) and not one of Donnie’s delusions. Donnie has to go back and let himself be killed in order to “fix” what went wrong as a result of him not getting killed when he was supposed to, and his visions of Frank are ghosts or the universe or whatnot trying warn him and convince him to do this…

    …Except the whole reason he didn’t get killed the first time is because ghost-Frank lured him out of bed to… warn him… that… Wait, WTF? How is that not a giant screaming plot hole that eats the entire story if you’re supposed to take it as reality? Only way it makes sense is if the whole thing’s all just a skittery, continuously self-overwriting psychosis on Donnie’s part.


    always knew this movie was crap


    always knew this movie was garbage