Reviewer's grade: C
Based on the 1996 nonfiction best seller by Jon Krakauer, "Into the Wild" is a compelling and powerful story undermined by unchecked ambition and self-importance. It tells of Christopher McClandess (Emile Hirsch) who at age 22 shed his comfortable middle-class existence to thoroughly drop out of society. He chopped up his credit cards, donated every dollar he had to charity and, rechristening himself "Alexander Supertramp," embarked on a journey that would end tragically in 1992 in the Alaskan wilderness.
Hirsch has an air of unspoiled innocence that benefits his performance, but the problem is the film's depiction of Chris himself. Writer-director Sean Penn all but nominates his vagabond hero for sainthood, paying scant attention to the craziness " and selfishness " of Chris' existential adventure. Boasting an indulgent running time of nearly two-and-a-half hours, "Into the Wild" and its central character could have withstood greater scrutiny. R