Sunday, February 6, 2011

Another Dismal Summer Comedy, Knight And Day Is A Fast Ride Nowhere.

The Good: One or two lines, Cameron Diaz has her moments.
The Bad: Largely un-funny, Terrible dialogue, Very choreographed sense of action, Trite plot
The Basics: As one of the least funny comedies and least original action-adventure thrillers to hit theaters lately, Knight And Day is just not worth watching.

Summer Blockbuster Season is a time when two things tend to happen in American cinema. First, giant, expensive special-effects laden films are released that have the ability to dazzle the audience, sell popcorn and encourage people to shell out increasingly ridiculous prices for movie tickets. The second thing that happens is the movie theaters become dumping grounds for increasingly stupid movies that do surprisingly well at the box office, no doubt buoyed by people who are already at the mall and cannot get into the sold-out showing of the movie they truly want to see. Guess which one Knight And Day is?

Knight And Day is a particularly troubled action-comedy, a rising genre that seems to be spurred on from the success writers and directors have found in inserting clever one-liners into their action flicks. As I contemplated how bad Knight And Day was following the screening of it I attended, I did a little research and discovered that at various times, seven different screenwriters were involved in rewrites of the original script. This, I suspect, ought to have raised some red flags for the producers and financiers. That little nugget, oddly, did not surprise me as the movie seemed like it was cobbled together and lacked a cohesive narrative voice.

Knight And Day also lacks a genuine sense of humor, a panache for original action and characters one might empathize with. At least once in the movie, I sat and thought "Didn't they do this on Scarecrow And Mrs. King?" I haven't seen Scarecrow And Mrs. King in decades, but watching this movie, I found myself wishing I were watching a cinematic remake of that implausible television series. The current Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz vehicle does no one any great favors and one suspects that it will quickly be buried by vastly more successful, more worthwhile films that at least hide their lack of originality better.

Roy Miller is a secret agent who is doing his best to have a life outside his job. He meets June Havens by stalking her through an airport and warning her not to get onto a plane. But she does and once there things seem to be off to a promising start with her when his work intervenes. Miller is forced to kill the handful of other people on the plane, who are all killers out to get him and, possibly, June. The end of their first encounter comes with Miller needing to flee in order to protect a source of great power (a perpetual motion machine, essentially). Dragging June along with him, he attempts to carry out a mission which seems to be of some importance to national security. But Miller is erratic and soon June is questioning his sanity and his legitimacy as a secret agent.

As Miller and June flee trained killers and other adversaries, Miller tries to show June the ropes and keep her alive. But just as June becomes unsure of how much she can trust Miller and what he has told her, Miller soon has cause to believe that June is not all she appears to be and as the bullets fly, they both try to stay alive and learn the truth.

Right off the bat, Knight And Day is an erratic movie, but it definitely treads far more toward action-adventure than comedy. As a result, there is a mundane quality to the work that seems like exactly what it is: choreographed. For two people who have been top-billed in action-adventure films before, Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible) and Cameron Diaz (Charlie's Angels) seem to have no real flair for making the genre seem new. Cruise is characteristically stiff and efficient in many of the scenes where he has to run, jump and appear to shoot guns. Director James Mangold similarly seems to have nothing fresh to infuse into the action-adventure genre.

Amid the wisecracks and one-liners, which come frequently when things are not blowing up or Miller and June are running away from obstacles or toward new complications, it quickly occurs to the audience that they are not laughing. There is a desperate grab to find the catchphrase in Knight And Day which makes the whole adventure seem somewhat cliche. Ultimately, the writing does not stick and there are no definitive sequences or lines that actually stand out after the movie is over.

As far as character goes, the movie is largely devoid of it. June clearly becomes attracted to Miller pretty much because he is the proximate guy. There is a buddy comedy feel to the movie and the way it develops into a romance feels forced. In this regard, Knight And Day is problematic for either the casting, the direction or the writing (or all three) in that Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz have less than no chemistry on screen in their roles of Miller and June. Instead, they play off one another more like an odd couple without the spunk and quick retorts that come from Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon presenting Neil Simon's words. Yes, I just said it: Matthau and Lemmon have more on-screen chemistry than Cruise and Diaz do in this movie!

There is a "mistaken identity" feel to much of Knight And Day and the viewer is supposed to wonder if Miller is truly a secret agent, if June is truly just an innocent civilian and if Miller's mission is truly one that is supposed to save the world. But with June being dragged along whining about circumstances, it does not take long before the viewer does not care. It is impossible to become emotionally invested in these characters and the movie feels more like it is dragging the viewer through the convoluted identity issues and plot twists than it is making either a coherent story or an enjoyable character journey.

The movie's only redeeming factor is that Cameron Diaz manages to land it at times. As June Havens, Cameron Diaz has to scream, look afraid and hold tight to Tom Cruise's Miller. Cruise might be stiff, but there are moments in the first half of the film where Diaz seems realistically scared, confused and imperiled. One might not care much about June, even with her asides to her sister (played by Maggie Grace) which try to flesh her character out, but Diaz plays the part well enough to buy her act initially.

Tom Cruise gives viewers nothing we haven't seen from him before. This is action-adventure Tom Cruise running around spouting lines with an enthusiasm of Tom Cruise on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The combination is more unsettling than anything, but it just seems like he is reading lines much of the film.

Ultimately, Knight And Day is one of those films that tries to be a clever, genre-bending movie but flops out as a bad comedy that utilizes what talent is present in it poorly. It's an easy movie for everyone to skip, especially after the banality of Summer Blockbuster Season.

For other action-adventures with a romantic comedy feel to them, please check out my reviews of:
Excess Baggage
Land Of The Lost
Did You Hear About The Morgans?


For other film reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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