Little Buddha (1994)

LITTLE BUDDHA is a great chaser to the Summer Movie Memorial Day 500.
Intriguing, entertaining, and ultimately relaxing, Bernardo Bertolucci's
primer on Tibetian Buddhism tells the story of a 9 year-old-son Seattle
son (Alex Wiesendanger) who may bear the spirit of a great Tibetian

When confronted by visiting Lama Norbu (Ying Ruocheng), the parents (odd
choices Bridget Fonda and Chris Isaak) take the news surprisingly in
stride.  They allow their son to learn from the Lama, who tells the boy
the storybook story of Prince Siddhartha (Keanu Reeves) and his search
for enlightment in ancient Nepal. From this tale, the boy (and the
audience) learns about the Buddhist fundamentals of compassion,
knowledge, and impermanence.

LITTLE BUDDHA is a two-tiered tale and both sides of the story are
equally engaging. Fonda and Isaak are both a bit stiff, but Wiesendanger
is a find. His foil, best of the bunch Ying Ruocheng, is a calming
presence if there ever was one. The gimme-a-break casting of Reeves is
something to behold, though. Bronze, buffed, and beautiful, he makes a
most excellent Enlightened Dude. Somehow, he works.

Of course, the *real* reason to watch this film is for Bertolucci's
dynamic direction and Vittorio Storaro's prodigious photography.
Together, they open the eyes as well as the mind. Best surprise: the
multi-million dollar special-effects sequence of Reeves sitting under
the spreading Bodhi tree.

There are a couple bumps on the road to enlightment. The plot is
confusing now and zen, and the dialogue is often overpowered by the
music.  Said score is courtesy of Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose sweeping
sounds recall the work of Vangelis in BLADE RUNNER.  (Rated "PG"/123

Grade: B+

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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