The film adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's 2001 best-seller is a disappointment. Written and directed by talented actor Liev Schreiber, it nevertheless saps the novel of much of its depth and power. The story centers on a character named Jonathan Safran Foer (Elijah Wood) and his journey to Ukraine, where he intends to find and thank a woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Jonathan's translator/guide Alex (Eugene Hutz, of the Slavic-rock band Gogol Bordello) is a gangly self-styled gangsta (read: clown) whose hysterically blind grandfather (Boris Leskin) serves as driver. Then there's Sammy Davis Jr. Jr., a deranged "seeing-eye bitch." Three men and a border collie: It's hilarious. It's also beautiful, as Schreiber has an excellent feel for music and scene. But where's the soul? Schreiber omits all scenes of Jonathan's ancestral village and alters the identities of the two tragic figures to the point of implausibility. The result is a flaccid brand of sentimentality. Unlike Foer, whose treatment of the Holocaust is unflinching, Schreiber seems to have balked in the face of horror.
Everything Is Illuminated