"Breakfast on Pluto" has its tongue lodged so firmly in its cheek that it nearly chokes on it.
For most of its two hours, the film takes nothing seriously, including some weighty life-and-death matters. That's a little off-putting until, curiously, this dark British comedy does an abrupt about-face and turns into a touchy-feely drama during its final section. There's even a feel-good ending, which undercuts the first three quarters of the film.
And the less-than-convincing lead performance by Irish actor Cillian Murphy doesn't help. He plays Patrick "Kitten" Braden, who was abandoned at a young age by his mother and left with sympathetic priest Father Bernard (Liam Neeson). However, unable to take care of him, the clergyman leaves the infant with a foster mother (Ruth McCabe), who is considerably less kind.
It's not like Patrick is making it easy for her, though, especially when he begins dressing in drag and keeps trying to outrage his religious schoolteachers. Eventually, he tires of that routine and leaves home, then decides to go to London, where he believes his biological mother lives. Along the way, he falls in with glam-rockers and revolutionaries, as well as a quick-tempered, kids-show performer (Brendan Gleeson) and a seemingly kind-hearted magician (Stephen Rea).
This is the second collaboration between filmmaker Neil Jordan and author Patrick McCabe, who previously teamed on the 1997 adaptation of his novel "The Butcher Boy." Like that film, this one feels episodic and more than a little rambling. And Murphy (best known for "Batman Begins" and "Red Eye") seems a little tentative in his performance.
However, the soundtrack is filled with nuggets from the '70s-period glam-rock movement, and the supporting cast does manage to steal a few scenes. Gleeson and Rea, in particular, are as solid as always, and musician Bryan Ferry is appropriately menacing in a brief bit.
"Breakfast on Pluto" is rated R for a few scenes of violence (including some sexual violence and some explosive mayhem), crude sex talk and use of sexually suggestive slang terms, occasional use of strong sexual profanity, simulated sex and other sexual contact, gore and some drug content (marijuana use and numerous drug references). Running time: 129 minutes.