Movie Mom

There’s something far scarier about this movie than its CGI monsters, whose lack of any apparent weight makes them seem as threatening as the floating Clifford balloon in the Macy’s parade. What’s scary is the premise: it’s based on a computer game by Atari.

Yes, video games can have ominous atmosphere and relentless bad guys, but they seldom provide much by way of dialogue, character, or plot. You know, those things in movies that make up for the absence of a joystick that enables the player to blow stuff up.

The movie tries to create a story with an astoundingly boring 10-paragraph crawl at the beginning of the film, some mumbo-jumbo about a lost civilization, blah blah, and then there is a second prologue with a child being chased through the woods as a stock company mad scientist explains to a nun why she must support his story about the 20 children he has taken from the orphanage for medical experiments. “It’s not about a few children!” he barks at her. “It’s about the future of our species!”

Finally, we make it to the present day, and that runaway child, Edward (Christian Slater), is all grown up and a paranormal investigator who is being followed by some guy who really, really wants this artifact that Edward has hidden in his snazzy leather jacket. And then it turns into one of those now-they-battle-bad-guys-in-the open market, the Chinatown warehouse, the deserted underground laboratory, etc. etc. movies. There are a couple of good “boo!” surprises, a couple of cool fight moves, and some gross-out visuals, but they keep getting lost under the cardboard dialogue, the throbbing bass accompaniment to both a sex scene and a shoot-out, and the absence of that thing we often look for in movies — what is it again? Oh, yes, acting.

If I almost forgot that for a minute, it’s because everyone in the movie seems to have forgotten it, too. Slater just appears embarassed, understandable in these circumstances. And if our expectations for Tara Reid are low, also understandable in these circumstances, she still does not quite manage to live up to them. The pixels in the CGI monsters give a more believable performance than she does. Preposterously cast as an archeologist, with her hair pulled back and drugstore black-rimmed specs on her nose, she delivers her lines as though she is calling for another round of Mai Tais for the house. And no one seems to have explained to her that in English, the interrogative is usually expressed with a rising inflection.

Parents should know that this is a horror film with constant, intense, graphic violence. Many characters are killed in a wide variety of creative manners, including being impaled. There are monsters and other grisly images. Characters use some strong language and there is a moderately explicit sexual situation.

Families who see this movie should talk about the “greatest good for the greatest number” approach taken by Hudgens.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the movies that handle these themes far better, including Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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