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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.5%
Worth A Look: 17.5%
Pretty Bad: 17.5%
Total Crap: 2.5%

4 reviews, 16 user ratings

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Guardian, The (2006)
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by Doug Bentin

"Down to the sea in quips"
3 stars

You know the movie has missed the mark when you sit down to write the review and, except for the well-known actors in the leads, you can’t remember which actor played what part. You look at the cast list and, unless photos accompany the names, you have no idea which character was “Jack Skinner,” or even who Jack Skinner was.

This is my problem with “The Guardian,” the new film that tips its hat to the Rescue Swimmers of the U.S. Coast Guard. These are the guys and gals who make a living by jumping out of helicopters into turbulent waters to save average folks who have gotten into trouble by thinking they could handle themselves in the ocean when they can’t even remember which way to turn the handles in the shower.

Kevin Costner stars as Ben Randall whose marriage to Helen (Sela Ward in the thankless role of the woman who just doesn’t get it until too late in act three) is on the skids because he can’t say “No” when he is paged to go into action and she’s sick of him choosing to save lives over spending a quiet evening at home watching “Survivor” with her. Some men are so selfish. When Ben loses his best friend on a rescue mission, his commander (Clancy Brown) forces a temporary re-assignment on him and Ben becomes lead instructor at the USCG A-School, where the next generation of Rescue Swimmers is trained.

There he immediately butts heads with hot shot high school swimming champ Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher, who comes remarkably close to acting a couple of times). Jake sets out to break all of Ben’s records. Ben blows off this macho bullshit, but when Jake and Hodge (Brian Geraghty), one of his fellow-students, get into a bar fight with a pack of Navy blowhards, Ben will back Jake even when to do so is just plain idiotic. “Do you have a death wish,” a big sailor asks the already badly beaten Jake, “or are you just stupid?” “I choose stupid,” Jake replies before Ben goes into action.

Note that in the movie USCG blowhards are good and those of the Naval variety are not bad, but just annoying. Jake doesn’t meet any military from N. Korea, more’s the pity.

So we wonder if Ben and Helen will get back together, and if Jake will go all Richard Gere and ask the local girl (Melissa Sagemiller, who has a vintage Karen Allen smile) to marry him.

But the main plot is the one about the crusty but big-hearted instructor who uses tough love on the brash young stud because he sees great things in the kid’s future if he will only learn to shut the hell up and become a team player. Heroism and conformity—always a winning pair.

The picture is ably directed by Andrew Davis (“The Fugitive,” “Under Siege”), but it says something that I named two of his previous films that were made well over a decade ago to remind you what a good director he could be. The script is cobbled together by Ron L. Brinkerhoff from any number of inspirational service dramas that date back at least to “Tell It to the Marines” (1926) and is just too sow’s ear to ever be mistaken for a silk purse.

The movie is too long at 136 minutes, but the characters are likeable, as are the stars. Ben Randall fits Costner like a comfortable cardigan, and Kutcher manages to be both irritatingly arrogant and convincingly domestic at the same time. The rest of the school’s swimmers in training are interchangeable young actors who are destined to be referred to as “That’s what’s his name, the one who was in that Coast Guard movie with Mike Kelso.”

I congratulate the Coast Guard but was only mildly entertained by the movie. But watching it is better than going for a swim during a perfect storm.

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originally posted: 10/12/06 07:26:13
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User Comments

4/10/10 David Brilliant, I really enjoyed it. Will buy my own copy. 5 stars
1/17/09 Aesop I expected a yawner, but Costner and Kutcher both impress. 4 stars
10/13/07 mb Interesting, OK. 4 stars
3/27/07 Monday Morning Like Top Gun with boats instead of planes, but still a pretty good yarn. 4 stars
3/23/07 MP Bartley Refreshingly unpretentious and old fashioned action yarn. Costner as sincere as always. 4 stars
3/15/07 Matt A shade overlong, but well made, engrossing, and better than the critics like to rate it. 4 stars
2/16/07 Michaelb1478 Great Movie but waaaaaay tooo loooong 4 stars
1/27/07 action movie fan great coast guard training moments and heroism--story a bit melodramatic-still uplifting 4 stars
11/29/06 Mert like "topgun", i mean cliché; but good to pass the time with your girlfriend... 3 stars
11/18/06 Quigley Way too long. Could have been better. I didn't know Kevin Costner could act though 3 stars
10/15/06 William Goss Finally, a movie for the Coast Guard to jack off to. Generic and overlong, Costner tries. 3 stars
10/12/06 Bob Very Dull 2 stars
10/08/06 Mohobbit too much like Office and a Gentleman.but ok for Costner fans 3 stars
10/06/06 Michael Coovert Predictable; to me it was Armegedon in the water 3 stars
10/01/06 michael average and wait for the DVD 3 stars
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  29-Sep-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 23-Jan-2007



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