Based on the acclaimed play by Yasmina Reza, this is the tale of two sets of parents and their misguided attempt to make peace after one of their children bludgeons the other with a stick in the local park, causing the other to lose a tooth and undergo dental surgery. Nancy and Allen (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) are the parents of the culprit, and Penelope and Michael (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) are the piping mad parents of the injured victim.
At some point, they decide to hold a meeting at the bourgeois home of the high-strung Penelope and her doltish husband, Michael. From the start, things begin to go awry. Penelope begins to critique the parenting skills of both Nancy and Allen, and visa versa. Before long, things get out of hand, with all four individuals firing various insults at one another, revealing their true colors, and ironically behaving like schoolyard bullies themselves. Much like Edward Albee's `Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf', alcohol soon plays a supporting role in the film, and the situation escalates from bad to worse.
This is the film in a nutshell - pardon the cliché. Four people, one setting, tons of fireworks. It wants to be `Virginia Woolf' for a new generation, but lacks the acid wit and ferocious bite of Albee's masterpiece. One of the problems with `Carnage' is that the material isn't as funny as it thinks it is. These characters never go for the throat, and the film suffers as a result.
Jodie Foster is yet another weak link in the film. She is over the top - and not in a good way. Her performance is annoyingly distracting. Either she was sorely miscast in this particular role, or comedy simply isn't Foster's forte. On the other hand, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly, and Christoph Waltz are at the top of their game. Collectively, they make the film worth watching, and they have some of the best lines.
`Carnage' isn't without its charms, though most of those are in the first act. The two scenes which bookend the film are quite effective as well. With just a bit more edge, this film could have been a small classic. As it is, it is merely okay and nothing more.
Rated R, 80 minutes, directed by Roman Polanski, released by Sony Pictures Classics