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"Lara Croft: Tomb Raider"

Directed by Simon West.
Written by Patrick Massett and John Zinman.  Based on the Eidos video game.
Starring Angelina Jolie. 
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  6/24/01


When the Playstation version of "Tomb Raider" first came out, I was all over it.  A beautiful video game with a rather disproportional lead character, the game emphasized brains over brawn but provided for some good action sequences nevertheless.  It was much like another classic, "Prince of Persia", in that you spent about 95% of your time figuring out where to find a key or open a door or solve a riddle.  The other five percent was used blowing away monkeys, dogs, dinosaurs, and the occasional mummy.

The movie version of "Tomb Raider" is much like the video game in terms of these percentages, except for one small change.

95% of this movie sucks.

This was painful for me, because I let my guard down (or, maybe it was the 55,000 commercials I saw for the movie before going to the theater) and raised my expectations to a ridiculously high level.  And, beyond hiring Angelina Jolie to play the title role--that of well-off adventurer Lara Croft--the movie does so much wrong that by the time she is riding on that dog sled out of the movie, I was already running for the door.

The story keeps things simple for an idiot like myself:  Lara must find two halves of a mysterious triangular shape that apparently lets the beholder travel through time.  Conveniently, the two pieces are on opposite sides of the globe, one in Cambodia, one in Iceland.  So, Lara must track them down before a dangerous rival (Iain Glen) gets to them first.

Remember how I was saying that almost the entire video game is spent thinking about what piece of the puzzle is next?  That is the number one failing of this film; because she has to do almost no work to find these two pieces of the triangle, there is NO cerebral portion to the film.  But, being a summer film, there are guns aplenty, and Jolie is firing at just about everything in sight in the course of the 90-minute film.  The action scenes were serviceable, and feature Jolie doing lots of her own stunts on motorcycles, suspended ropes, and riding on those aforementioned dog sleds.  But, it felt totally unnecessary.  And, I LIKE gunfire.  In this movie, it just felt gratuitous.

Beyond the casting of Jolie--who looks, talks and walks the part--the rest of this movie is a dog.  There is no "adventure", per se; instead of a long, arduous journey to the location of these artifacts, Croft gets airdropped to Cambodia and drives to the artifact's temple is a hot SUV; with her GPS leading the way, she shows up in 15 minutes, without even breaking a sweat!  If she had at least a little bit of difficulty getting to these locations, I would have had a little more fun with it; she might as well have told Scotty to beam her directly inside the temple.  In Iceland, they find the center of the earth so quickly that if you go to the bathroom when Croft gets off of the chopper, you will miss the transition scenes that get her to the inner core location.  It was like clockwork--

  1. Lara's team lands in Iceland.

  2. Lara's team hires dog sleds from some Icelandic village; luckily for everyone on the team, the villagers take cash (US dollars, in fact!  What the hell are the villagers going to do with that cash?  Go Duty Free??).

  3. The team gets land/water boats to take them directly to the core, then they deploy by dog sled to get right to the front door.

  4. Lara rings a bell, and the door to the core opens, like it was a mafia-style club!!

It was all so easy!!  I was laughing hysterically by this point.  Movies are dumbing down so much that I fear all of the major studio presidents think that America is one big ADD-inflicted numbnut.  Hopefully, the inevitable sequel to this film will be smarter and embody the video game at least a little.  Those of us who came to see this movie because we liked the game are sorely disappointed.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09