In a poorly taught lesson in the flawed belief system of Buddhism, LITTLE BUDDHA, starring Keanu Reeves in flashbacks as Prince Siddhartha, tells the tale of a young American boy believed by Buddhist monks to be a reincarnated Tibetan lama. While vacant of offensive material, LITTLE BUDDHA is a lackluster and unappealing film which fails as propaganda, history or entertainment.
In a poorly taught lesson on the solipsistic belief system of Buddhism, LITTLE BUDDHA tells the tale of a young American boy believed by Buddhist monks to be a reincarnated Tibetan lama. Through a tedious and boring process, the boy and his parents bond with the monks, learn about Buddhism, express mild disbelief, yet allow the monks unlimited and unsupervised access to their child, and then take the child to Bhutan to discover the truth–is he the reincarnated lama or not? Intertwined with the movie’s contemporary storyline is the parallel story, illustrated through flashbacks, of Prince Siddhartha, who renounces worldly pleasures and abandons his kingdom, his wife and his newborn child to seek an answer to the world’s suffering. Siddhartha becomes Buddha when he reaches purity of thought. How this helps the rest of the world and the suffering therein is not even remotely explained.
Keanu Reeves, appearing anorexic and acting lost and disoriented, is unbelievable as Siddhartha. Bridget Fonda is lifeless and dull as the boy’s mom, Lisa, and Chris Isaak, even more lifeless and dull as his father, Dean. While pleasantly vacant of offensive material, LITTLE BUDDHA is sadly a unappealing film. If intended as a commercial for Buddhism, the movie fails miserably, and if intended as an informative history lesson, it falls ineptly short as well.
(FR, V, S, NN, AB) Buddhist worldview promoting reincarnation & espousing compassion for living things as means to spiritual salvation; mild violence in one scene depicting spiritual battle between Buddha & evil forces, & one scene of dead body being burned; brief scene containing sexually explicit Buddhist statues; partial male nudity, brief female & male nudity in Buddhist statues; and, anti-biblical reference to immaculate conception.