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Overall Rating
3.06

Awesome: 6.74%
Worth A Look: 29.21%
Average37.08%
Pretty Bad: 16.85%
Total Crap: 10.11%

8 reviews, 41 user ratings


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Sahara
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Wooderson Saves the World?"
2 stars

For those of you who don’t do the majority of your reading on airplanes, “Sahara” is the latest attempt by Hollywood (following 1980's disastrous “Raise the Titanic”) to bring the works of best-selling novelist Clive Cussler to the big screen. Most of his books concern the adventures of the heroic he-man Dirk Pitt, who travels the globe solving ancient mysteries, testing out elaborate scientific equipment and generally saving the world from one danger or another. With his fancy gadgets and his cultured ways, he essentially comes off as James Bond without the accent, though Bond might question his apparent preference for rare cars over the ladies.

It is hard to imagine an actor who could credibly pull off such a character, especially as told in Cussler’s straight-faced (despite the ludicrousness of the name) manner. However, if you were deliberately trying to miscast the part with the most inappropriate actor possible, you could hardly pick someone more ill-suited for the part than Matthew McConaughey. A good actor when he puts his mind to it (as he showed in “Dazed and Confused” and the little-seen “13 Conversations About One Thing”), he simply carries too much of a laid-back hippie vibe to be credible as a rough-and-tumble hero; I personally find it hard to buy the world being saved by a guy who would look more at home in the parking lot of a Phish concert.

The film opens with Pitt hot on the trail of a missing Civil War ironclad battleship that was supposedly carrying samples of Confederate gold coins when it disappeared 150 years ago. While doing salvage work in North Africa, he comes across one of the coins and clues that suggest that the ship somehow made its way up the Nile river. While on the hunt, he and wacky sidekick Al Giordano (the equally miscast Steve Zahn) rescue UN scientist Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz, whose casting seems to have been done with pinpoint accuracy by comparison) when she is mysteriously attacked by thugs while trying to find the source of a mysterious plague that seems to be sweeping the populace.

Teaming up, the trio discover that the disease is the result of a faulty nuclear power plant, run by a greedy Frenchman (Lambert Wilson) and a psychotic African warlord, whose waste products are poisoning the vast underground river running beneath the plant; if they aren’t stopped, the disease will hit the ocean and all of mankind will be doomed. Only Dirk Pitt can save the day–provided he can tear himself away from his bong and “Lynrd Skynrd’s Greatest Hits” CD. (The former is a joke but the film does somehow make room for the fairly inexplicable inclusion of “Sweet Home Alabama” on the soundtrack.)

Debuting director Breck Eisner is clearly trying to create something in the mold of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” here but all of the things that Steven Spielberg was able to toss off so effortlessly–a storyline that cleverly mixed fact, fantasy and outright hooey, romantic banter that never got too silly or mushy and action set-pieces that were as thrilling as they were funny–but his efforts come closer to recalling the lumpy dopiness of the recent “Mummy” movies. The storyline is so busy explaining all of the fine details of the plot, such as how an ironclad with a relatively short travel range could have possibly made it to Africa, that it never quite gets around to clearly explaining the basic parameters of the central plot, such as why the evil warlord is so insistent on keeping the plant running even though he knows that the poisoning will inevitably be traced back to him. The chemistry between McConaughey and Cruz is practically non-existent and the only surprise that the film has to offer is the final bikini-clad clinch between the two; it seems to have been added in as an after-thought to capitalize on their real-life romance and seems wildly out of place with the rest of the film.

The action sequences are resolutely unthrilling-–instead of striking out on his own, Eisner is content to simply ape things that worked in other films in scenes that can’t help but compare unfavorably to the originals. Even when the elements are in place for something suitably memorable, such as the climactic showdown in which our heroes are forced to defend themselves against heavily armed troops and a missile-laden helicopter with only a rusty Confederate-era cannon, it is put together so lifelessly that the only sensation it creates is the sense of time, money and energy slowly being thrown away with little return on the investment.

With their astonishing feats of derring-do, their elaborate array of skills and high-tech weaponry and their ability to cap every event with a wry punch-line, most action-movie heroes are inherently ridiculous creations that cannot possibly be taken seriously. However, if you make them too jokey, it becomes impossible work up any sort of rooting interest in their adventures. The best examples–let’s put James Bond, Indiana Jones and Errol Flynn’s take on Robin Hood at the top of the list–are the ones that manage to find a correct balance between the serious and the silly. “Sahara,” needless to say, never comes close to finding that happy middle ground.

Instead, it is a wildly extravagant yet deadly dull action-adventure that subverts its two-fisted tales of improbable heroics with a flat visual style, an inappropriately goofy screenplay and casting decisions so ill-advised that they make the notion of Jimmy Fallon as a romantic lead seem almost credible by comparison. This doesn’t even rise to the level of passable pulp fiction–call it rind fiction instead.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11922&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/08/05 13:30:08
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User Comments

1/08/12 Gianluca Entertaining and amusing. Stupid, but funny. 3 stars
11/24/10 chris. good movie if you don't want to think hard, in a good way--fun! 4 stars
8/02/10 reptilesni Super fun film . If you don't think too hard, you'll enjoy it very much. 4 stars
9/18/09 Jeff Wilder Ridiculous. But a lot of fun. 3 stars
12/29/08 DanO Entertaining--It is not super flick--yet it is enjoyable. 4 stars
6/16/08 PAUL SHORTT VAPID, LENGHTY AND MOSTLY LIFELESS 2 stars
10/27/07 RoC Not a great film but entertaining enough 4 stars
10/03/07 Savanna i love the movie!! 5 stars
1/23/07 Matt Poorly cast, but otherwise enjoyable popcorn nonsense. Lighten up! 4 stars
10/06/06 Booksworm Come on people, what the hell more do you want? It's adventure! 5 stars
9/27/06 Damon Adventure movies can be good. Or they can be like this. 1 stars
3/09/06 Dk Cool film. Enough said 4 stars
10/12/05 eddiejohns McConaughey should never try to be an adventurer again. I wasn't convinced. 1 stars
10/04/05 Aldo nothing special...characters were pretty boring 3 stars
9/16/05 Phil M. Aficionado Slick, rich looking, glib, all-out, contrived, but well-made whackion flick. 3 stars
9/15/05 Tom Burns A good adventure film. It reminded me of the Indiana Jones movies a little. 4 stars
9/14/05 Pinkline Jones McConaughey worst actor since Quentin 1 stars
8/30/05 ES Becasue of this movie I will never, ever pick up the novels, couldn't have been worse 1 stars
8/23/05 Jason Eldred Clive Cusslers Awesome Novels are best left on paper and not to be ruined on film like this 1 stars
7/11/05 Heather Pruplethorne Well, Laura Kyle, it is MUCH MUCH better than RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK! 5 stars
7/08/05 Donna Gelpigi Running to escape Tuaregs before they hatch into Tuars. 4 stars
5/31/05 jcjs fun, no brainer, entertainment, 007 with Indiana Jones 4 stars
5/30/05 Jake Horrible! I walked out of the theater 30 minutes into it! 1 stars
5/10/05 Carol ok 3 stars
4/24/05 Quigley poor Matthew McConaughey! its action is so fake and overplayed and becomes total crap. 1 stars
4/20/05 Krisan not as good as i expected from Matthew, but better than i expected from Penelope 4 stars
4/20/05 Aaron Smith Only slightly entertaining. Liked ironclad story better than disease/warlord plot. 3 stars
4/19/05 CoralSnake I fell asleep. 1 stars
4/18/05 Maria Hau I want to see it what has got in Africa (Tanzanian). 5 stars
4/18/05 Bones McCoy Loads of fun 5 stars
4/18/05 Lord Jiggy Competent, if uninspired fun. Anybody catch the brassy Bond riff in the soundtrack? 4 stars
4/17/05 Roy Smith Cinematic Tranquilizer. Do not operate heavy machinery under it's effects. 2 stars
4/15/05 Marilyn very bland, could guess ending 3 stars
4/13/05 Time Waster What? 1 stars
4/12/05 KingNeutron Thoroughly improbable, but tremendous fun. Zahn as a SEAL though? Not! 4 stars
4/11/05 Sarah Wittenauer (i have read many cussler books), Rudi and Al werent supposed to look that way... 4 stars
4/11/05 Bing Best movie of the year 5 stars
4/11/05 Naka How the HELL is this something different? We've seen it 1000 times before... 2 stars
4/10/05 Witch-King Not bad - something different! 4 stars
4/10/05 Agent Sands Wow. I was so impressed. Not. 3 stars
4/09/05 Denise okay 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Apr-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 30-Aug-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  07-Apr-2005




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