Tomb Raider:
a movie review

"Burying Tomb Raider"
By Teddy Durgin

I'm not gonna mince words, folks. "Tomb Raider" is a failure on all levels. Badly written, badly acted, terribly directed, the movie is a failure of "Hudson Hawk" proportions. If I can do one thing for my readers, I can save them the expense and the misery of seeing this film. This isn't just a bad review, dear readers. This is a warning. Stay away from this movie! Don't let your kids nag you into seeing it. Don't let your girlfriend or boyfriend. Don't even let your own personal curiosity get the better of you. It is THAT bad!

If you want to waste eight bucks, here is a better strategy. Go to the bank and take out eight $1 bills. Go to a public place on a windy day. An open-air shopping center or a community park. Either will do. Wait for a strong gust of wind and let fly the George Washingtons. You will have loads more fun watching the local citizens chase the cash in the breeze than you will enduring "Tomb Raider."

"Tomb Raider" is based on the mega-popular video game of the same name that features Lara Croft, a busty, butt-kicking babe who loves going into abandoned temples and long-forgotten crypts and swiping the artifacts buried inside. The producers of this movie version have done one thing right. They found the right actress to play Croft in Angelina Jolie. They even got her look right. After that, they stopped caring.

Honestly, there is not one single character in "Tomb Raider" that an audience can give a damn about. The heroine has one character trait. She misses her rich archeologist daddy (Jon Voight ... wink, wink), who was reported missing on an expedition in the mid-1980s. Every scene involving the Croft character is either her remembering her daddy, her pining for her daddy, her finding something her daddy buried for her years earlier, her having dreams of her daddy. It's all very disturbing. You just want to shake the girl, tell her to get a life, make some friends, have a pool party.

Unfortunately, without Croft's daddy complex, there wouldn't be much of a movie. The plot of "Tomb Raider" is more disjointed than a side-show freak's arm. The movie has all the subtlety of firing live rounds off in your house. Actually, Lara Croft does that at several points in the picture.

The central story is that a secret group called the Illuminati has been waiting 5,000 years for the nine planets of our solar system to align so they can use an ancient key to activate a device that will enable them to control time. The problem is the ancient culture who created this technology split the key in half and buried it on opposite ends of the globe (actually Cambodia and Siberia ... which really aren't on opposite ends of the globe) so it would never fall into villainous hands. Why this supposedly noble culture didn't just burn the key to prevent such a catastrophe is never explored, of course.

Anyway, the Illuminati is made up of spectacularly boring Englishmen, portrayed by a group of actors that director Simon West must have pulled off the British dinner-theatre circuit. They all talk in slow, hushed tones as if their every word has cosmic importance. They love repeating the fact that if their mission fails, they will have to wait "another 5,000 years." That point is driven home on at least six different occasions.

The Illuminati employ a mercenary named Manfred Powell (Iain Glen) to find the key pieces. This character has no depth, no history, and no screen presence whatsoever. He is just a sneering, one-note cad who wants only to get the key so he can "play God." Again, it's a point he drives home in nearly every scene he appears in.

Much harm should come to the people who made this film. Let's start with the editor, Dallas S. Puett. In Puett's hands, "Tomb Raider" has two speeds. Very slow and very fast. In the dialogue scenes, the characters stand around and drone on and on about playing God, finding daddy, and controlling time. Then, they hop in cars, helicopters, motorcycles, jeeps, even dog sleds and drive at ludicrous speeds to their destinations. Scenes of the various characters traveling to the various locales make up roughly a third of the film. When the action finally comes, much of it is shot in slow motion or rapid-fire jump cuts. If you cut the travel scenes and sped up the slow-mo sequences, the movie would be roughly 45 minutes long. Mercifully, the whole chore is kept to under 100 minutes.

Next on the firing line should be production designer Kirk M. Petruccelli. He is the guy responsible for making the big sets in this film. Remember a movie called "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Remember when Indiana Jones raided the tomb in the beginning of that film, then later the Well of the Souls. Remember how dirty and dusty they were. Full of spiders, snakes, cobwebs, and crust. The tombs in "Tomb Raider" look like redressed studio soundstages. I've seen cardboard lobby displays with more attention to detail than Petruccelli's creations.

A little violence should also be directed at the writing team behind this disaster. Amazingly, no less than four people are credited with coming up with the story. The screenwriters, meanwhile, are Patrick Massett and John Zinman. Sixth-graders could write better dialogue than these two duds, and the humor in the film is as flat as can be. At one point, Lara Croft and her dim-witted sidekick, Bryce (Noah Taylor) are traveling via chopper to a remote location. Bryce's big funny line: "Hey, Lara! My bum is asleep!" If the sound of the helicopter blades wasn't so deafening on the Dolby Digital, you'd hear the crickets chirping loud and clear.

I'll stop here. I have to. "Tomb Raider" represents big-budget studio productions at their absolute worst. All action, all mayhem, no character development, no plot, no genuine human interest.

I know what some of you out there are thinking. But, Ted, I'm going to go anyway just to see Angelina Jolie and those gigantic breasts of hers! Yes, it's true, Jolie's breasts are the movie's best visual effect. The film should have been called "Boob Raider." Or, better yet, how about some truth in advertising. A better title would have been: "Running in Slow-Mo With Breasts." At one point, Jolie is reunited with her father in a dream sequence. They reach out to each other (again in slow-mo). As photographed, though, you don't know if Voight is looking to clasp hands with his offspring or feel her up.

And let's be honest here. Jolie's breasts in this film are fake. They're ridiculously fake. Insultingly fake. I don't care what the video-game character looked like. Every scene Jolie appears in, you can't help but stare at her rack. This is not a good thing. Imagine if Spielberg and Lucas had forced Harrison Ford to shove a bushel of tube socks down his pants so that every time Indy ran, you'd be staring at a Johnson the size of Florida. It would be distracting and ridiculous. If you want to see Lara Croft's breasts jiggle, go to your local movie theater lobby and shake the poster for this film. You'll get just as much enjoyment.

"Tomb Raider" is rated PG-13 for action violence and some sensuality. Stay away!

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