Film Review from an Exotica Fan’s Perspective:
Breakfast of Champions, 1999

Written and Directed by Alan Rudolph, Based on the Novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Starring Bruce Willis, Albert Finney, Nick Nolte, Barbara Hershey, Glynne Headley, Lukas Haas, Omar Epps, and Vicki Lewis.
Featuring songs by Martin Denny

Unless you are fan of boring, surreal, pointless movies the only reason to see this movie is to experience the music of Martin Denny. Denny’s music was used as the backdrop to the movie, almost in a score-like quality (though the movie’s "proper" score was done by Mark Isham) with various characters and places throughout the movie.

The movie follows car dealer Dwayne Hoover’s (Bruce Willis) mental breakdown and his relationships with his family (Hershey, Haas), co-worker (Nolte), and secretary (Headley). A subplot involves bizarre writer Kilgore Trout (Finney) who eventually meets Hoover in the film’s climax. To explain the plot would be pointless; the movie’s surreal look and dialogue are pretty incoherent and in many respects truly bizarre (Nick Nolte is a cross-dresser, need we say more?). The characters act in ways that do not seem to have any basis in reality, which is almost, but not-quite, justified by the plot of the film and it’s theme of "stranger in paradise."

So, what does the movie hold for Exotica fans? Thankfully, plenty. Eighteen Martin Denny songs are used throughout the movie, many in effective ways. "Coronation" plays over the opening and closing credits (and the movie’s trailer). "Hypnotique" is used as a theme for Hoover’s wife Celia (Barbara Hershey) while "Cobra" is used similarly for Nick Nolte’s movie (and real-life) wife Grace LeSabre (Vicki Lewis).

One theme in the movie that many Exotica fans will appreciate is the theme of paradise, embodied in the movie with the car dealership’s "Hawaiian Week" promotion. The dealership is decked out in full Hawaiiana décor, and many of the characters dress appropriately for this motif.

There are few references that only Exotica fans will notice. There is an adult bookstore called "Exotica Adult Books" that is visited by Trout. Much of the film takes place at Hoover’s business, "Dwayne Hoover’s Exit 11 Motor Village." This locale is first introduced in the film by Denny’s similarly named "Quiet Village" and the song is used later in the film in similar context.

In all, eighteen Martin Denny songs are used in the film: "Stranger in Paradise", "Coronation", "Forbidden Island", "Hypnotique", "Similau", "Cobra", "Oro (God of Vengeance)", "Escales", "Siboney", "Jungle Madness", "Song of the Bayou", "Quiet Village", "Exotica", "Flamingo", "Aku Aku", "My Little Grass Shack in Kealakenau", Kalua (Love Song of)", and "Llama Serenade". All but the last four appear on the movie’s soundtrack CD, unfortunate only in the they could have easily fit onto the CD which is only 40 minutes long (and, doubly so since some of those tracks have never made it to CD). I also could have sworn I heard Denny’s version of "Love Dance" played during the movie, but it does not appear in the credits or on the soundtrack.

Arthur Lyman fans will want to stay for the second half of the closing credits, when his excellent version of "Stranger in Paradise" is played (that version is available on his Pearly Shells CD). Sadly, this song is also omitted from the Soundtrack CD.

So, is Breakfast of Champions worth your time? If you’re a real Martin Denny fan and want to see his music used effectively in a movie, then the answer is an unequivocal yes. But, the tedium of this movie makes strong Kona coffee your companion beverage of choice, rather than a Mai Tai.

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This page last modified on Tuesday, June 08, 2004.