Fat Man and Little Boy (1989) Roland Joffe’s Atomic Bomb Drama Starring Paul Newman

Director Roland Joffe has never recovered from the artistic and commercial failure of his ambitious but flawed 1989 drama, Fat Man and Little Boy, starring Paul Newman.

“Fat Man” and “Little Boy” were the nicknames given to the atomic bombs that were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki toward the end of World War II.

The film, which depicts the monumental events leading up to the dawn of the atomic age, is so detached and lacking in a discernible POV that, despite inherent interest in the little-known subject, it’s almost impossible to get engaged in the proceedings.

Paul Newman is well cast as General Leslie Groves, a hard-nosed career soldier, who in 1942 became the reluctant “nursemaid” to a group of idealistic scientists in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

As the military head of the top-secret Manhattan Project, Groves intends to have the operation run by the book, that is, by his own book and at all costs.

Disregarding the fascinating broader socio-political context, the story, especially its second half, narrows down to a battle of wills and power between Groves and atomic scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Dwight Schultz), who is as stubborn, contentious and single-minded as the general.

The secondary cast is populated by terrific actors: Bonnie Bedelia, John Cusack, Laura Dern, and Natasha Richardson.
MPAA: PG-13.

Running time: 110 minutes.

Directed by Roland Joffé

Written by Bruce Robinson and Roland Joffé

Released: October 20, 1989

DVD: April 27, 2004