Slightly funnier than the first episode of IFC’s new mini-series, but still suffering from the same problems, “The War Within” is concerned mainly with Lt. Devon Morehouse’s (Tobey Maguire) adventures during WWII including being shot down and taken prisoner by the Japanese. After surviving a fiery plane crash without a scratch and later making his ridiculous escape from the POW camp, Devon eventually returns to his adopted home with his new wife Lady Anne York (a mannequin voiced by Carey Mulligan).
“The War Within” includes cameos from Steve Tom and Val Kilmer as generals breaking the news to Jonas (Tim Robbins) and Cynthia (Kristen Wiig) that Devon was shot down in the Pacific and is presumed dead. As with the first episode, the actors purposefully beat a horse to death while reinforcing basic concepts the audience knows aren’t true (such as Devon’s likely death and that the actors are all performing the scene in the same room).
The episode’s one big laugh comes from a jump-cut slap-fest involving Jonas trying to knock some sense into his daughter (but sadly not the show). The oddity of casting a mannequin (who nobody notices is a mannequin) as Devon’s wife is more peculiar than humorous (although it provides for a crazy sex scene). Nor does the episode’s final sequence involving Jonas’ deteriorating health and an experimental carburetor that runs on steam power do much in the way of tempting me to stay with the misadventures of Devon and his adoptive family past the first two mediocre episodes. With one-third of the mini-series complete, all I’m really left with is mild curiosity as to how it will use the various other celebrity cameos in the remaining four episodes.