Back Shelf Beauties
Sometimes, even I can't believe what captures my attention in a movie. Sure, I might not be a Pulitzer Prize winner or good enough to write for some major daily newspaper (or pennysaver weekly newspaper either, but I digress). However, I like to think I am a professional with something to say. Then, I spend the introduction of my movie review talking about Matthew McConaughey's teeth. Yes, his teeth.
I don't know why, but I was mesmerized by his gleaming white, shiny, luminescent teeth in Sahara. It was quite jarring to see his pearly white choppers jumping off the screen at you, burning a hole in your eyeballs, while the rest of his body is grimy and tanned. McConaughey's teeth could light up a baseball stadium at night. You think some costume person would say, "Maybe, to keep the movie a bit realistic, his teeth wouldn't be so bright and perfect after spending so much time in the desert without a shower or toothbrush. Let's fix that." But NOOOOOOO! Just goes to show you, it's the little things that stay with you long after seeing a movie. Now, back to the review.
Penelope Cruz stars as Dr. Eva Rojas - a physician with the World Health Organization who has been treating a mysterious illness in Western Africa. She suspects a major plague may break out, but needs to get to war torn Mali to gather more evidence. Along the way, she runs into Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) - a former Navy SEAL obsessed with finding a legendary Civil War-era Confederate Iron Clad (that's a boat for those of you who slept through High School history class). Somehow, this boat possibly made its way to Africa carrying an unknown cargo (time to start practicing that whole suspension of disbelief thing right about now). Dirk is on his way into Mali and up the Niger River to find the boat, and agrees to take Eva, but powerful forces do not want them to get to their destination.
What is causing the plague? Can Dirk find his treasure? Who is trying to stop them? Why?
Sahara won't be competing for any Oscars, but it is goofy, light-hearted fun. Director Breck Eisner (son of Disney's Michael Eisner) infuses the film with a roguish, devil-may-care, serial feel so familiar to fans of National Treasure and Indiana Jones, but it's a tone true to the story and likely to draw in viewers.
Eisner uses style to over come a failing script in scenes like the title sequence where we scan across a room and learn everything we need to know about Dirk. He uses great music as Dirk's boat heads up river, lots of stuff blowing up in dramatic fashion and well timed comic relief to keep us further interested. Even though Sahara employs one of my most hated movie clichés (the lead actor performing some task like surfing or skateboarding in a transparent and desperate attempt to look cool and appeal to "the kids"), even though it is hard to believe a Civil War-era Confederate ship could make it across the Atlantic Ocean with a load of heavy gold coins, and even though the politically correct and sensitive among ticket buyers will be put off by the portrayal of Mali natives, Sahara has a certain charm. It's fun to let go and ride along with this crazy cast on an unbelievable adventure.
McConaughey is a silly, likable guy, the kind of dude who could be your buddy if it wasn't for that whole getting arrested while playing the bongos naked thing (a guy has to have standards when picking friends). He makes Dirk Pitt suave with the ladies like Bond, tough as nails like Rambo, and just as resourceful as MacGyver. At times, it gets to be a bit too much as he and Eva too easily and luckily stumble across the right information, but McConaughey is charming and gives Pitt so much life, you enjoy watching it. He shares great chemistry with Steve Zahn as the two provide plenty of laughs, and does what he can with an underdeveloped, unnecessary love story.
Eisner doesn't always do a good job giving us a sense of time in this movie (Dirk and team hike across the desert so fast, they seem to be traveling faster on foot than another character racing along all night long to catch them in his car), and the team of 4 writers (basing the movie on Clive Cussler's novel) don't do anything original, especially with the basic dialogue, but Sahara is a passable, likable film.
2 ½ Waffles (Out Of 4)
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