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Film review

Keep 'Stealth' off your radar

There's plenty of computer-generated action but little in the way of plot or suspense.

By RICK GERSHMAN
Published July 28, 2005


photo
[Photo: Sony Pictures
Josh Lucas, left, Jamie Foxx and Jessica Biel are pilots trying to stop a computer-controlled jet with a mind of its own in Stealth.

I laughed hard enough to cry through much of Wedding Crashers, but the funniest scene I've seen this year takes place about midway through the futuristic jet fighter flick Stealth.

Supermodel-gorgeous Jessica Biel, playing - oh man, I'm starting to giggle again - one of the world's most elite jet pilots, ejects from her malfunctioning jet.

Even though the jet has been malfunctioning for some time, Biel's Lt. Kara Wade waits until the last possible second to eject. And even though her jet appears to have every single piece of information on Earth at her fingertips - it's the Web times 50 - she doesn't happen to notice that she's ejecting over, whoops, North Korea.

Then it gets better. Biel recites a progressively more hilarious play-by-play of her descent, which breaks about 72 laws of physics: She ends up beneath the exploding plane, which would have been miles away in seconds. She's getting smacked around by chunks of plane. And burning debris is raining down on her chute.

If it doesn't sound hilarious, I guess I just don't have the touch of Stealth director Rob Cohen, who remarkably graduated from Harvard before helming such inane pap as The Fast and the Furious and XXX.

At least those films had their moments, but Stealth - man, does that title not fit - is a headache-inducing, bombastic, utterly soul-crushing mess. It looks pretty, sure, with all its computer-generated bells and whistles, and its way-too-pretty cast with Biel, blue-eyed Josh Lucas and Jamie Foxx.

But it also plays out like a movie written by an 8-year-old boy, intended solely for 8-year-old boys. Every scene seems like it exists because the filmmakers said, "Wouldn't it be cool if . . ." and "Then it would be supercool if . . ." without concern for whether any of it made a whit of sense.

Stealth presents a story "in the near future" in which a supercomputer-piloted jet goes all Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey and our trio of heroes has to stop it.

Foxx is playing the third wheel, having signed on for and shot Stealth in spring 2004, well before the release of Ray and his subsequent Academy Award for best actor. Ultimately it's a small role, and he doesn't make much of an impression.

One thing Cohen lacks more than any action director in recent memory is the slightest concept of suspense. Stealth has a few twists and turns that might have been exciting in the hands of a competent filmmaker, but Cohen telegraphs each one well in advance.

The credited screenwriter is W.D. Richter, known to film buffs as director of cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. I'm guessing that little of Richter's script remains in the insipid final product and that only the arcane Writers Guild rules explain his credit. Richter might not have gone to Harvard, but he's too smart for this by far.

Stealth

Grade: D

Director: Rob Cohen

Cast: Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Sam Shepard, Richard Roxburgh, Joe Morton, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Wentworth Miller (voice)

Screenplay: W.D. Richter

Rating: PG-13; intense action, violence, brief strong language

Running time: 121 min.

[Last modified July 27, 2005, 09:54:07]


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