Doctor Bello's Faith-Based Hoodoo Could Not Save Itself


Doctor Bello
Directed by Tony Abulu
Black Ivory Communications
Now showing, AMC Empire 25

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The worst thing about Doctor Bello's tacky, pseudo-spiritual proceedings isn't how bad the soap opera melodramatics are (Tyler Perry would blush!), but rather how lazily sketched out its story of one man's road to self-actualization is. The film's writers left no cliché unused, and no major plot point undeveloped. Dr. Durant (Isaiah Washington) has exhausted his resources in a quest to cure a 13-year-old of his cancer. Durant turns to Dr. Bello (Jimmy Jean-Louis), a Nigerian practitioner of holistic medicine, who saves the little boy with a mysterious vial of liquid and an unhealthy dose of faith-based hoodoo. But when Bello succumbs to cancer, Dr. Durant must fly to Nigeria in search of a Lorenzo's Oil-style cure. The quest is paint-by-numbers nonsense, and Doctor Bello's creators demonstrate little facility for representing recognizably human emotions. For example, Washington's Durant is presumably sympathetic because he's soft-spoken and even-tempered, but that meekness just makes him a shy cypher. Even the scene where Durant takes a Nigerian healer's drugs and then wrestles with himself—literally, with his own double—on a Nigerian beach is weirdly rote. The inadvertent homoerotic subtext is momentarily diverting, but everything else in Doctor Bello is tired.

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