Film Review: Chloe & Theo

Nearly unbearable, relentlessly kooky fable about an Inuit man adrift in Manhattan, trying to save the world from corporate destruction.
Specialty Releases

A stranger in a strange new world, i.e., New York City, Theo (Theo Ikummaq) has been sent by his tribe in the Canadian Arctic to warn us “civilized” people in the South that we are ruining the planet—not to mention his own Inuit existence—with our industrialized ways. Haplessly looking for any so-called elders he can speak to about this, he stumbles upon Chloe (Dakota Johnson), a whimsical, homeless runaway. Wanting to help him find these elders he keeps mentioning, she takes him to a senior-citizen home.

And with that cornball development, Ezna Sands’ relentessly twee and monumentally muddled conceit of a global-warming cautionary tale is off and running. Lamely. Chloe takes Theo in, to her squat that is also populated by the merriest gang of raggedy rapscallions since Oliver Twist. And Theo, the very model of what critic James Agee once described as a “clean old peasant,” ever popular among banal filmmakers for making polemical social points, wanders Manhattan in a state of perpetual wonder, charming its inhabitants who continually mistake him for an Eskimo, with his childlike innocence. Ugh.

Richard Branson co-produced this determinedly wacky farrago, making you think the man has maybe spent too much time up in the air or huffing the ganga of his beloved Jamaica. Ikummaq has a ubiquitous sweet purity which no amount of acting training could buy, and at times calls up Chaplin, Keaton and other disarming silent clowns with his deadpan, dignified and charming graveness. But everyone around him acts up a mugging storm, and Johnson, looking disconcertingly cosmeticized and well-groomed, save for a few splotches of dirt on her porcelain skin, here destroys whatever natural appeal she had in 50 Shades of Grey and is a constant perky annoyance. Broadway veteran André De Shields brings some flashy swagger as one of her street cohorts. Mira Sorvino also crisply appears as a human-rights lawyer, as does Larry King. Larry King…which just about says it all about Chloe & Theo.