Reindeer Games

By Mark Ramsey | 2000/02/13

Ben Affleck has little bitty baby teeth.

See for yourself! I’m talkin’ a full portfolio of juvenile micro-ivories. Why didn’t I recognize this when he spit up in his stroller en route to the Golden Globes? Did Gwyneth ever mistake a nibble for an insect bite, or was she too busy cutting Ben’s food into itsy-bitsy pieces? Ben, do you prefer a bite guard or a crossing guard? Do your vitamins come in every Flintstone flavor?

What’s the tooth fairy waiting for, anyway, critical mass?


You know, there’s nothing like a Christmas movie that opens late in February. Believe me, a late Winter sextet of dead Santas in the opening frames tells you one thing and one thing only: Something’s rotten and it’s coming from the silver screen.

Reindeer Games is one of the most expensive movies ever made by the folks at Dimension films – that’s the division of Miramax whose films contain roughly one-third the standard number of dimensions.

With games like these, no wonder the other reindeer wouldn’t let Rudolph play. I don’t know about red noses, but the faces must be glowing red over at Dimension, thanks to this unseasonable turkey. Any Thanksgiving movies forthcoming, guys?

As Reindeer Games opens, Ben Affleck is in prison. Ben’s convicted of illegal sex acts with Matt Damon, and here he is in the big house embroiled in a food fight. The joint is jumpin’, and somebody wants that piece of cheese Ben’s gnawing with those Stuart Little choppers.

Tattooed on Ben’s shoulders are playing cards and crucifixes, which are Ben’s way of saying: “I am the Poker-playing servant of the Lord. Thou shalt have no other Poker-players than me.” It’s also a subtle hint of the miracle it’ll take for Miramax to see payback on this gamble.


Babelicious Charlize Theron is a lonely-heart pen pal to Ben’s cell-mate, because what gal can settle for a guy on the straight and narrow when there are so many forlorn, sincere felons serving 20 to life?

Gary Sinise buffs up for a slum stint as a nasty criminal. He reprises his long-haired Lt. Dan costume in a look that shouts: Jesus Christ, Super-hood. Gary is alleged to be Charlize’s brother, which has geneticists the world over returning to their drawing boards in befuddled puzzlement.

They say every dark cloud has a silver lining, and there’s just enough of Charlize’s upper torso exposed to line my cloud with silver place-settings galore and a little baby setting for Ben, too. Bless you, Charlize! Who needs a script when the Good Lord creates lines like these?

Look quick and you’ll see Ben’s ass prominently displayed during one particularly gymnastic go-round with Charlize. Ben should have saved his ass for a better flick, because nothing’s gonna save his ass here.

This is one of those movies where the twists are more important than the story. I hate movies like that. Twisting is the specialty of writer and Miramax Wunderkind Ehren Kruger, the guy who penned twisty – but far superior – Arlington Road and Scream 3.

Somebody remind Ehren that good movies are about delicious stories first, clever twists later. Ehren, Hemingway had to die before his crappiest stuff was released, so what’s your excuse?

I expected much better from a movie with the credentials behind this one. Reindeer Games is from director John Frankenheimer, who’s been making movies since my teeth were almost as tiny as Ben’s!

John directed the underrated Ronin and authentic classics like The Manchurian Candidate, where Frank Sinatra’s hey-hey nookie with the dames took a back seat to genuinely swingin’ dramatic tension. The only tension in Reindeer Games is in my straw when I suck on it.

I like Affleck a lot, and damn it he deserves better than this Santa caper lump of coal. Even teeny-tiny teeth need something tasty to chew on!

Reindeer Games is less Ronin, and more groanin’. It’s a pimple on the ass of The Manchurian Candidate.

Or, on Ben’s ass, numerous pimples.


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