"Sahara," "Fever Pitch": Some Thoughts
From the there-are-worse-ways-to-spend-some-bucks-at-the-movies department:
Sahara is a big, dumb, improbable, kid-friendly adventure yarn. And much like last summer's big, dumb, improbable, kid-friendly adventure yarn, National Treasure, it is decent popcorn entertainment, provided you're willing to temporarily put aside all ability to reason, ponder and use opposable thumbs.
In this adaptation of a Clive Cussler novel starring his hero Dirk Pitt, director Breck Eisner (son of Disney's Michael Eisner -- ahhh, the joys of being the child of a movie mogul) does little more than string together a bunch of preposterous chases, close calls and explosions. During the Golden Age of Hollywood, this sort of stuff would be labeled derring-do. Maybe it still is. Eisner's direction is hackneyed, and the editing is far too jumbled to really follow much of the action, but the goofiness of it all is, grudgingly, pretty damn fun.
Sahara's biggest drawback, aside from it being utterly ridiculous (and since that's part of the good time, who can really call that a drawback?) is a cast in desperate need of a collective bitch slap.
The inexplicably famous Matthew McConaughey, who stars as our hero, looks and acts as if he'd be more comfortable spring breaking it at Padre Island than racing through desert sands. As the beautiful and brainy love interest, Penelope Cruz offers line readings slightly more proficiently than that of a trained seal.
And as the trusty sidekick, Steve Zahn plays Steve Zahn, which is to say he is engaging enough in that smartassed sidekick sort of way, until you realize about two-thirds of the way through that the filmmakers have no intention of killing this guy off.
Equally pleasant (and frothy) is Fever Pitch. At first blush, a romantic comedy might seem a bit of a stretch for Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the brothers who whipped up hair gel in There's Something About Mary and bull-milking in Kingpin, but even their grossest gross-out comedies have been romances at heart.
Fever Pitch purports to be a love triangle between a workaholic businesswoman (Drew Barrymore, cute and sunny as ever), a fanatical Boston Red Sox fan (Jimmy Fallon) and the Bosox during its magical 2004 season. But the movie is more inclusive than a mere valentine to baseball. Loosely based on the Nick Hornby novel, Fever Pitch essentially has fun with examining the art of compromise in relationships. Oh, it maintains a light touch, all right, but nevertheless it does touch upon real issues dealing with self-identity and juggling passions ... and all that other crap.
And so Fever Pitch, for all its endearing silliness about Red Sox Nation, reveals sincerity and even a bit of wisdom (this from the pair who made Dumb and Dumber). But the movie does commit one glaring error (surely you didn't think I'd get through this without at least one baseball analogy). Jimmy Fallon is milquetoast. He doesn't embarrass himself, but the guy has no real presence.
I never thought I'd say this, but where's Adam Sandler when you need him?