Upon viewing the trailer, I hadn’t the slightest idea what to think of it. I mean, Tom Hanks rarely churns out a bad movie and considering he’s riding off the support of many for the snub of BRIDGE OF SPIES at the Oscars, it’d be a bit of a shock if his next movie looked as bad as this flick’s trailer made it seem. This film looked like it would be EAT, PRAY, LOVE, but with Hanks. In short, I didn’t think too highly of this one. About the only thing I was banking on was that Hanks, like in BRIDGE OF SPIES, the real star of the film would be Hanks’ charisma. Did he hold it up?
This is my honest opinion of: A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING
Alan (Tom Hanks) is a businessman in the middle of a complicated divorce, while also trying to put his daughter, Kit (Tracey Fairaway), through college. His latest venture takes him to Saudi Arabia to sell a holographic projection for business meeting purposes to the Arabian King. Unfortunately, said King is not there and hasn’t been in their neck of the woods for over eighteen months. With no word of when the King might make an appearance, Alan attempts to seek the help of the King’s business liaison, whom is also not around, who should have also helped take care of Alan’s team. To make matters worse, Alan discovers a cyst in his spine, which eventually leads him to the hospital and meets Dr. Zahra (Sarita Choudhury), whom he develops feelings for.
And… it blows. I didn’t think it was a very good movie.
Let’s start with the main attraction. Hanks. This…is not his best role, which translates as an awkward performance. Alan spends the entire movie complaining, throwing tantrums, or being a jerk to everyone. Not that some of it isn’t warranted. If you travel from one country to another on business, and you are promised basic complimentaries like a functional air conditioning system and food, but don’t get it, anyone would be upset. But when you’re late for a business meeting because you forgot to set the alarm multiple times, you don’t take it out on the guy who is courteous enough to drive you to where you need to go. Your character is made even worse when you have a hangover. Again, his mean-spirited attitude is not a very good trait to have because then it becomes difficult to invest in him and want him to succeed in the end.
Unfortunately, when your protagonist isn’t very likable, writers have this weird tendency to write unrealistic supporting characters. It’s like they came up with a character that’s supposed to be the comic relief; he’s quirky and funny, all that stuff, but then forget to make him a real character and his personality isn’t realistic. That character is Yousef, played by Alexander Black. Yousef is basically Alan’s “driver” while he’s in Saudi Arabia, mostly because Alan keeps oversleeping and missing his scheduled shuttle. Yousef is a guy… someone just calls and sends him over to drive Alan around. In all their time together, Yousef is a pleasant enough fellow, and Alan treats him like a second class human being. And Yousef just allows Alan to treat him like crap. Hell, later on in the movie, he invites the American to his home town in the mountains. Yeah because everyone driving buses and taxi’s invites their passengers to their family homes. Don’t act like you don’t do it, folks. *sarcasm* But in trying to maintain the character’s sunny personality, it’s hard to take the character seriously or really like him when he just allows himself to be belittled or otherwise mistreated by Alan. Alright, Alan’s not throwing racial slurs in Yousef’s direction, he’s not despicable or anything, but I can’t imagine that Yousef wouldn’t at least stand up for himself and say to Alan that the way he talks to him is not respectful and should change his attitude toward him.
Now let’s get into the romantic interest of the movie, Zahra. Let me just say that Choudhury is actually very good in this movie, despite being given very little to work with, but once again, her character also gets sucked into the pit of making Alan look good. Once again, the story centers around this uninteresting character, and as such, every character is written around him rather than being written as their own characters. Zahra is a rare female doctor that helps him during his visits regarding his cyst. You’d think that for a character who is supposed to be particularly unique would be more interesting, but no, she’s there to be someone for Alan to fall in love with in the midst of his divorce. She’s a pretty face to make him feel alive again. And how does this happen? Well, bad screenwriting comes to mind, but because he sends her a few emails, some of them flirty. Look, I won’t say doctor/patient hook ups never happen, but you’d think it’d happen with someone who was genuinely charming, funny, interesting, all that. Hanks may be all that, but Alan is not. At the end of the day, Alan’s flirting is forced, obvious, and kind of awkward. Yet, Zahra falls for it and breaks professionalism for him. Lame.
Oh and the list doesn’t end there. The daughter also has a weird role. She’s Alan’s motivation. Selling this tech to the King means a fat paycheck, which means college for Kit. Thing is, it’s hard for us to care because Kit isn’t much of a character. She only appears in flashback, and those flashbacks last about two seconds. There may be a lot of them, which was not only annoying, but not enough to distinguish Kit. All we know about her is that she’s a server at a restaurant and she’s happy doing it and okay with not going to college right away. Why does Alan keep hammering in to everyone that college is important? To give yourself options? We see that his daughter is content with what she has. We are never shown why he feels so strongly about this subject that comes up way too frequently.
Enough about the characters. Is the story my feared EAT, PRAY, LOVE but with Hanks? Ehh yeah, kinda. He doesn’t pray, at least. But there’s those “culture clash” cliches that we’ve seen over and over again. Beyond that, the story is very character-driven and the characters aren’t interesting or realistic, which greatly hampers the film.
While it’s not god-awful, it’s not like there’s insulting humor or anything, but there’s nothing to it. There’s no standout performance, or one’s that are good and deserve a crap-ton of praise. It’s not very funny, or gripping, or enjoyable in any way. It’s just a boring waste of time. If you are a huge Tom Hanks fan, I don’t know, maybe you’ll enjoy it, but he’s done better movies, so I don’t recommend it. Personally, I’ve only seen the film this one time, I have no interest in seeing it again.
My honest rating for A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING: 2/5