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March 26, 2015

Divergent (**) PG 13

The second installment in the big screen adaptation of the Divergent books, a series that has proved wildly popular among the teen set who are obsessed with these sorts of literary dystopian visions, proves to be even more lackluster than its predecessor and that’s saying something. That earlier film was so incredibly bland and forgettable that I had to go back and do my homework and bring myself up to speed before catching up to the new installment.

Such was my experience with Divergent that I had absolutely no recollection of anything that transpired in the pic in spite of the fact that it’s only been a year since the initial installment was released.

So now the story continues with Insurgent, albeit with a much more watered down feel permeating the film’s atmosphere. The talented young actress Shailene Woodley, who has proven herself adept in dramatic turns in such films as The Descendants and last year’s weeper The Fault in Our Stars, just seems to be going through the motions here. It’s sad to watch an actress with such potential disinterestedly phoning in her performance. Especially, when one considers the potential scripts she might have turned down that would have better suited her talents in order to put the time in that it takes to put together a film like this.

The film’s plot, as overstuffed as a Jimmy Dean sausage overflowing its casing, is so hackneyed and downright dull that even reiterating it for the purpose of this review seems like a laborious chore but allow me to indulge anyway. At least things get off to a good start before it derails as our heroine, Tris (Woodley), boyfriend Four (Theo James), brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and their tag along, Peter (Miles Teller) find themselves being mistaken for fugitives in this futuristic universe. The villain here is Jeanine (Kate Winslet), a high ranking official who seems to have it out for our quartet of protagonists. Jeanine has come into the possession of some sort of thing that requires Tris’ unlocking of its secrets but Tris has visions of leading a revolution of sorts instead. Finding someone to help with these plans doesn’t exactly come easily either as most of her cohorts are more cowardly than the lion in The Wizard of Oz.

The second half of the pic suffers in comparison to the first half as the filmmakers clearly felt it was required to give the audience a dose of mindless special effects sequences which quite frankly bored this reviewer to tears. I keep wondering when Hollywood is going to realize that all the dazzling effects in the world aren’t going to save a film when the characters don’t engage us and make us sympathize with their plight. It’s a fundamental screenwriting rule as old as storytelling itself but one that apparently the minds behind Insurgent haven’t learned. That’s really too bad.

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