Chloe and Theo is a film that operates entirely on a vague sense of uplift. Produced by wildly wealthy entrepreneurs Richard Branson and John Paul DeJoria, this story of a kind Eskimo, Theo (Theo Ikummaq), sent to “the South” (in this case, New York City) to warn of impending environmental change has an uneasy corporate sheen.
The group of homeless allies that Theo teams up with, led by Chloe (Dakota Johnson, giving a far less convincing performance than she did in Fifty Shades of Grey) have the annoying tendency to use the word “freaking” instead of “fucking,” and somehow everyone knows Theo is an Eskimo as soon as they see him.
An unprofessional, Ikummaq gives a quiet, understated performance, which makes his character’s ultimate status as a sacrificial lamb all the more frustrating. Theo’s message of mindfulness and change is valid, but delivered in too simple-minded a film — Theo and Chloe’s encounter with a sympathetic lawyer (Mira Sorvino) who brings them to the U.N. is farfetched, and seems to cheapen the complexity that might be found in Theo’s vision.
Chloe and Theo is not without some charms, though. The opening images of the ice and sky of Theo’s arctic homeland look straight out of a National Geographic pictorial and lend themselves well to a wide screen. An animated interlude illustrating Theo’s lore earns some points for creativity. But the filmmakers’ urge to inspire is frustratingly obvious.
The final image is of a quote from Theo: “The power to change lies within ourselves.” If only the film could believe this, and didn’t feel the need to temper natural beauty with moralistic exposition.
Chloe and Theo
Written and directed by Ezna Sands
Opens September 4, Cinema Village