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'HANNIBAL' WON'T SATISFY YOUR HUNGER FOR BACKGROUND.

Byline: Glenn Whipp

Film Critic

Origin stories being the popular way to reinvigorate and/or prop up ailing movie franchises these days, "Hannibal Rising" tells us how film's most popular cannibal came to possess his particular diet, clues us into the proper accompaniment for human cheek flesh (wild mushrooms, not fava beans, which, as you may remember, go with liver) and pretty well leaves you satiated, but not in the way you might have hoped.

From book to screen

It's all very cut-and-dried and, for a movie about a serial killer, remarkably dull. Lecter's creator, Thomas Harris, wrote the screenplay, based on his novel that came out in December.

The book was roundly criticized then for reading too much like a screenplay.

The screenplay? It feels like an overlong footnote.

In "Hannibal Rising," we learn that Lecter wasn't born bad.

Inhumanity made him a monster. This should come as good news to Hannibal's mother; otherwise breast-feeding and the teething years would have come at a terrible price.

The bad news for Hannibal's mother is that she dies in the movie's opening minutes, along with Hannibal's father and assorted other loved ones when a Nazi warplane strafes them.

It's the tail end of the war, and Lithuania in the winter is a bad place to be, caught between the German and Russian armies.

Looters abound. Food is scarce.

After losing their parents, young Hannibal and his beloved baby sister Mischa huddle in a house. Did I mention the winter is brutal and that food is scarce? Did I mention the roving looters? Put two and two together and Hannibal soon loses another family member

Years later, a French police inspector -- not Clouseau, but just as bumbling when you think about it -- neatly spells out the movie (just like a pitch meeting!): "The little boy died in 1944 out in that snow. His heart died with Mischa. What he is now ... there is no word for it ... except monster."

What motivated him?

Cue sinister music and you're off to the races as Hannibal (Gaspard Ulliel), now a young man, wants an eye for an eye, as well as various other tasty human body parts. The movie's simplistic reading of Lecter and his motivation robs the character of the mystery that made him appealing. What's left is a plodding revenge story, memorable only for the way it strips the last vestiges of interest from what was once a fascinating character.

HANNIBAL RISING - One star

(R: strong violence, language, sexual references)

Starring: Gaspard Ulliel.

Director: Peter Webber.

Running time: 1 hr. 59 min.

In a nutshell: Dull origin story robs Lecter of his mystery.

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Photo:

Gaspard Ulliel is the young Hannibal Lecter in "Hannibal Rising," an origins story that falls far short of its potential.
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Article Details
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 9, 2007
Words:464
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