A scene from 'Tomb Raider'
Courtesy Photo
** stars 103 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, June 15, 2001
Directed by Simon West

Starring Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight, Noah Taylor, Daniel Craig, Iain Glen, Leslie Phillips, Chris Barrie


If the stunts aren't 30 feet tall, this flick doesn't have much going for it.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 11.13.2001


 LINKS for this film
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Perfect casting of Angelina Jolie can't keep Lara Croft's live-action debut from landing flat on its face

By Rob Blackwelder

About 50 minutes into "Tomb Raider" the plot abruptly ends -- there's literally no reason for the movie to continue -- but not a single character notices.

Video game vixen Lara Croft -- that curvaceous, gun-slinging archeologist honey perfectly embodied here by Angelina Jolie -- is trying to recover two halves of an ancient artifact that can control time itself. She's has to find them before a secret clan of gristly bad guys does, because if the whole thing falls into the wrong hands it could be used for evil, blah, blah, blah.

Around this 50-minute mark Lara gets her hands on one half of the artifact, but for all her supposed smarts, she's too thick to figure out that all she has to do is destroy that one half to render the artifact powerless and save the world.

Hello? Game over.

But director Simon West ("Con Air," "The General's Daughter") is aiming way below the mind of any audience member who could make such an obvious deduction. As long as the soundtrack is loud, the stunts are plentiful and Jolie's T-shirts are tight, he doesn't give a stitch about plot -- although there sure is a lot of it.

Apparently this artifact will only work during a rare alignment of planets "culminating in a full solar eclipse." Nevermind that it's a physical impossibility for other planets to cause an eclipse on Earth. Nevermind that the artifact is shown in 5,000-year-old flashbacks working just fine even when there isn't an alignment or an eclipse. But let's not nit-pick. This movie is a washout even without such moronic blunders.

A rave music-fueled, double espresso attempt by a wannabe John Woo to morph together scraps of "Batman" (Lara's high-tech estate comes with a deadpan butler), "Indiana Jones" (Lara faces down a nefarious rival archeologist) and "The Fifth Element" (nonsensical countdown-to-cataclysm plot) -- then slap a pair of boobs on the resulting hybrid creature -- "Tomb Raider" isn't so much a movie made from a video game as a movie made for a video game mentality.

The stunts are undeniably cool since they're the only real point of the picture. In the best sequence, a bungee-bounding Lara bounces off the walls while fighting off a band of heavily armed intruders who rappel through the skylights of her manor in a raid aimed at purloining another important plot device -- I mean artifact.

But as butt-kicking as such scenes are, the rest of the movie is at least twice as stupid. Story development depends on the cheapest and clumsiest of expository dialogue. Pseudo-spiritualism is invoked to pad the run time and imply an artificial depth of character that the pixilated version of Lara Croft never had. And in the last reel even the action becomes boring when fight scenes are thrown in willy-nilly because the finale lacks punch.

"Tomb Raider" knows what its target audience wants -- bullets, breasts and things that go boom. But if you're not a part of that 14-year-old dude-mentality demographic, chances are you'd prefer an action flick that acknowledges its own absurdities.

Movies like "A Knight's Tale," "The Mummy," "Charlie's Angels" and "Desperado" are honestly designed to entertain. Movies like "Tomb Raider" are designed only to part fools from their money.

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