Where The Crawdads Sing is a title that creates expectations. With a title like that, the film is either quality, snoozy or pretentious.

Where The Crawdads Sing begins with two boys who find a dead body at the base of a swampland fire tower. The suspect is a reclusive girl who lives alone in the marsh. The movie then skips back and forth in time to tell the girl’s story and follow her court case.

Combining the title with the plot makes one expect a cross between Just Cause and No Country For Old Men, but it’s more like if To Kill a Mockingbird was written by Nicholas Sparks.

Look at me nonchalantly sitting here, not posing at all…

Where The Crawdads Sing The Body Female

Where The Crawdads Sing is based on a book by Delia Owens. The book is on the all-time, best-seller list, just behind Fifty Shades of Gray. It’s not sexist to guess mostly women bought the 15 million copies sold. Currently, Earth’s female population is about 3.9 billion. That means one out of every 260 women bought Where The Crawdads Sing and Fifty Shades of Gray.

What can we extrapolate from these numbers? If someone writes a book about crawdads getting whipped, they could make a lot of money.

The movie is directed by Olivia Newman. Newman is best known for being the daughter of parents.

Reese Witherspoon produced Where The Crawdads Sing. The movie made $140 million on a $24 million budget. Not bad. The film has a 7.2 score on IMDB and a surprising score on Rotten Tomatoes. There, it received a 96% audience score but only a 34% critics’ score.

This makes no sense. Where The Crawdads Sing should be a critical darling. It has a lady writer, a lady director, and a lady producer. Perhaps critics were disappointed no crawdads actually sang? Otherwise, not even the virtue-signaling winds of feminism could blow critics through the southern-gothic, love-bog doldrums of Where The Crawdads Sing. It’s a place where only Harlequin Romance fans float.

Where The Crawdads Sing stars Daisy Jessica Edgar-Jones. Her acting consists of looking at people with doe eyes and a slightly-raised brow while she may or may not hug herself. Her performance builds upon Kirsten Stewart’s lip-biting in the Twilight series.

Edgar-Jones’s character is a Romance Mary Sue. Despite the fact she is a weirdo who lives in the swamp by herself and probably doesn’t shave her armpits, hunky men cannot help but fall all over themselves to take care of her even though she can totally take care of herself.

Said men are played by Taylor John Smith and Harris Dickinson. When the camera isn’t fetishizing their strong backs, I could not help but laugh at some of their melodramatic lines, which bordered on parody. At one point, one of them (I can’t tell them apart, frankly) stops wrestling with a shirtless Edgar-Jones “because he cares about her too much” to go any further.

I’m not laughing at abstinence. The idea of abstinence is admirable. Now that the numbers are in, it’s clear that the sexual revolution boosted individual orgasm numbers but did nothing to benefit society as a whole. No, I’m laughing at the fact that a movie that presents itself as a serious film is actually a Hallmark movie in disguise. That’s a good trick!

It’s doubly funny because some folks got upset that the black characters in Where The Crawdads Sing are caricature black folks. I’ve got news for them…

From the grandfatherly lawyer, to the drunken father, to the mean classmates, they are all as standard as paper plates, and that’s fine. A reason exists for cliché to be cliché – it works within the genre.

Supposedly these are two different guys. I’m not buying it…

Where The Crawdads Sing Off-Key

Where The Crawdads Sing has nice cinematography, but it’s hyper-idealized. Never have you seen such a storybook swamp. Bugs, slime, and humidity don’t exist. Characters run through a marshland paradise in bare feet, take idyllic boat rides, sleep to croaking-frog symphonies, and moon over each other in golden-hour lighting while shadows dapple across their forms.

One-half expects the alligators to dance and sing “Hakuna Matata.”

Yet, the narrative is where the movie truly fails. After the first act, Where The Crawdads Sing follows the relationship of Edgar-Jones with one of the boys. The movie then resets and follows her relationship with the other boy. I can’t remember watching a movie that gets to the third act only to turn around and do the second act over again. Maybe that is a common thing in Hallmark movies. Then female viewers get to watch two romances for the price of one.

Furthermore, the murder mystery is as thin as the margins for Indiana Jones 5 to profit. The court room drama is built on a progression of stunning revelations that work for and against the protagonist and end with a dramatic speech to the jury. These elements exist in Where The Crawdads Sing, but they carry no weight. The movie considers a fire-tower, safety standards letter a stunning revelation. Actor David Strathairn dodders through these scenes with all the steam of a man getting up in the middle of the night to eat a piece of cheese.

Occasionally, pointless asides are also introduced. For example, the question of who owns a plot of land comes up, and runtime is spent on it. Why? The movie doesn’t know. Likewise, social services appear as a threat to Edgar-Jones. Why? The movie doesn’t know.

If the movie doesn’t know, it shouldn’t be in the movie.

Where The Crawdads Song Ends

Where The Crawdads Sing banks on the idea that the payoff of its ending will make its meandering melodramatic middle, shallow mystery, and stock characters look better. It’s a vain hope. Nothing much exists for people who don’t enjoy Hallmark movies to hang their hats on.

Earlier, No Country For Old Men was mentioned. Unlike Where The Crawdads Sing, No Country For Old Men delivers on its promises of being a serious film. Despite a confounding resolution to Brolin’s story, it is impeccably shot, features magnetic characters, and has great acting. Furthermore, the confounding element can be defended as a legitimate choice within the theme of the movie.

There’s not much to defend in Where The Crawdads Sing. There’s not much to fight for either. By the time the final reveal rolls around, Where The Crawdads Sing doesn’t even use its main actors in old-age makeup. It uses elderly actors instead, who don’t even look the same. It makes the viewer feel like they stepped into an entirely different film, which cuts the legs out from under the payoff. These kinds of confounding choices are not thematic. They are simply misguided.

Where The Crawdads Sing is a movie that somehow escaped the Hallmark Channel and ended up in movie theaters where viewers demand more. If it had stayed on the Hallmark Channel, it might be a classic of the genre with its solid production and targeted audience. As it stands, it’s a serious movie, all right. Seriously average.

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