Larry Elder

"Does it have subtitles?" I asked.

My friend Nina wanted to see a Bollywood film with the weird title of "Slumdog Millionaire." I preferred to see the new James Bond film because, really, I just wanted -- during the Thanksgiving holiday -- to put my brain on cruise control for an hour or two and watch good ol' reliable 007 blast bad guys.

"Sort of," she said.

"Oh."

"But I've heard amazing things about this film," she insisted. So off we went.

Movie reviews that reveal too much always bother me. So here's an outline -- and I mean outline, because for a brief 120 minutes, "Slumdog Millionaire" surprises, astounds, amazes, entrances and intrigues. It is, at its bottom, a love story.

A dirt-poor orphan boy, Jamal, ends up on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." How he got there, why he got there, how an uneducated young man managed to answer questions -- well, that's the journey.

This is also a story about the path taken by two brothers. It is about cruelty and exploitation and the abject, completely dehumanizing poverty in India, a destitution that even the poorest among us would find unimaginable.

And how ironic that much of the film takes place in Mumbai, India. For on the day we watched the film, Indian authorities almost 9,000 miles away fought with Islamic terrorists who launched multiple attacks, ultimately leaving more than 170 dead and hundreds more wounded.

The viewer of this film is stunned -- time and time again -- at the poverty that makes the poorest rundown shack in Appalachia look like the honeymoon suite at the Bellagio.

In America, we consider a family of four "poor" if its annual income falls below $21,203. And we actually undercount income -- ignoring assets accumulated in prior years and disregarding non-cash welfare, such as taxpayer-funded education, lunch programs, health care, food stamps and subsidies for public housing. Only 6 percent of poor households, according to The Heritage Foundation, are overcrowded -- meaning more than one person per room. More than two-thirds of "poor" Americans live in housing with more than two rooms per person. And 43 percent of America's poor households own their own homes -- and the average poor person's home has three bedrooms, one-and-a-half bathrooms, a garage and a porch or a patio.


Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.