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The helpless Professor and the Madman just won’t fascinate

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This site presents reviews of films that will premiere every Thursday. This time: the drama The Professor and the Madman, the drama The Little Comrade, the drama Britt-Marie was here and the action comedy Stuber.

A film about the history of a dictionary. Sound boring? That’s it too. It is hard to imagine that this was once a passion project by Mel Gibson who wanted to translate Simon Winchester’s book De Gekwelde Woordaar since 1998 to the silver screen. Years of legal fuss about the rights later and the frustrated Gibson now refuses to make a single word on the end result.

With a little bit of goodwill, the potential is still visible. The Australian plays the Scottish autodidact and misunderstood genius James Murray (Gibson again with Braveheart accent) who started the creation of the monumental Oxford English Dictionary in 1879 behind his name. An insane undertaking in which he asked the British people for help (send your favorite words with their origins by postcard).

This request also reached, via a detour, the schizophrenic war veteran William Chester Minor (Sean Penn) who is then imprisoned for murder. The “insane” is said to have made an important contribution to the prestigious dictionary and built up a friendship with the professor from the title. The conservative gentlemen of Oxford, of course, didn’t like that.

The helpless and silly written The Professor and the Madman just won’t fascinate. The bold music and the swirling camera work try in vain to breathe life into it. The biggest obstacle is two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn, who brings together all the manic tics of earlier characters in his career in one spectacularly irritating acting performance. That iron eater Mel Gibson would once again provide the subtle note.

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