Enjoyable oddities come with ‘Benjamin Button’

Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is a curious boy indeed. Born grotesquely old and mysteriously aging backwards, he’s abandoned by his father after his mother dies in childbirth and is raised by Queenie (Taraji Henson), a feisty African American caretaker of an old age home in 1920s New Orleans. Queenie loves Benjamin without judgment, helping him grow into a curious young boy trapped in the body of a decrepit old man.

As a boy, Benjamin crosses paths with the beautiful, young Daisy (Cate Blanchett), the granddaughter of one of the home’s residents. Their odd friendship grows over the years, clearly marching us down their path of star-crossed lovers - but only when the time is right.

First, Benjamin must see the world.

As an adolescent (who looks 70), he leaves home on an adventure that takes him around the world, through the war and backwards through senior citizenship and middle age. Benjamin learns of love, loyalty and loss, all the while corresponding with Daisy, now a dancer in New York City facing her own more traditional life lessons.

At this point we’ve been through almost 30 years of Benjamin’s life and, for the most part, we’ve been spared anything that could be called predictable or cliche (a major exception being the unnecessary deathbed flashback ploy peppered throughout the film). Instead we are treated to a story full of enjoyable oddities and quirks in both the film’s cast of characters and its style of storytelling, a welcomed reprieve from the commercial holiday movie norm.

Unfortunately, this respite does not endure through the film’s second half. When Benjamin returns home from his adventures, we are thrown into a more traditional love story, overly accented by heavy-handed life lessons that start to make the passage of time feel painful to more than just the people on the screen (the film does run longer than 2 1/2 hours).

No matter what you think of the movie’s second half, it’s worth the price of admission alone for the two minutes of screen time where we get with the best special effects of the year - a teenage Brad Pitt who seems to have walked right off the screen of “Thelma & Louise.”

‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’

  • Rated PG-13
  • Grade: B+
  • Now playing