Alexie, who adapted his own novel, bears responsibility for the movie's ham-fisted treatment of racial-identity issues, its tiresome jokes and the dated, throbbing-guitar soundtrack.
Stream Smoke Signals
What are people saying?
What are critics saying?
The movie makes up in sincerity and goodwill what it lacks in originality and style.
Its particularities are the best thing about it.
The cast is uniformly excellent in their roles, and Eyre's persistent use of long, trailing shots reinforces the story's elegiac tone.
A well-crafted story with a unique voice. But its literary gifts are outweighed by its pictorial prosaicness. Dimming the screen in every shot is the unmistakable shadow of the page.
Beautiful in both its brevity and its vision of contemporary Indian culture, the film abounds in easygoing humor.
A shrewd portrait, sly, casual yet palpably authentic, of the principal ways members of any minority try to respond to an uncomprehending world. [29 Jun 1998, p. 69]
Takes advantage of the road movie genre, which requires only a goal and then permits great freedom in the events along the way.
And that's the surprise of the movie, beyond even the humor and humanity of its inside look at contemporary American Indian culture. It's really the oldest and most primal story forms, the one about the old man and the boy.
Breezy, often self-mocking tone proves fresh and invigorating.