A Bit Too 'Still'

Keanu bores and the human race annoys in this frustrating remake

Global warming replaces the Cold War in the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, a tedious time at the movies. A boring Keanu Reeves steps into the role of Klaatu, an alien ambassador in human form who has come to tell Earthlings that their days of screwing up the planet are over. Their refusal to recycle isn't appreciated by the legion of aliens who've been observing with disdain. It's time for the apocalypse ... KEANU STYLE!!!

In this case, KEANU STYLE means laid-back and uninspiring. The film boasts a few alien carnage scenes (one is at New York Giants Stadium, and another features a big truck getting eaten by swarming metallic bugs), but most of the film is spent in cars, apartments and hospitals. Klaatu--after a very rude introduction in which he gets his alien ass shot--winds up in a series of interrogation rooms before busting out (rather easily) and driving around with a soft-spoken scientist named Helen (Jennifer Connelly) and her whiny stepson, Jacob (Jaden Smith).

The flying saucer of the original has been replaced by swirling orbs that would be totally cool if won in a spirited game of marbles, but are rather bland as movie-alien space vehicles. Sci-fi junkies might be glad to hear that the menacing robot Gort has returned with his laser eye. Their happiness, however, will be replaced by irksome feelings when they see how Gort is rendered through CGI. He's obviously a cartoon, which makes him a little less menacing. Don't shoot him with tanks and whatnot; just press a delete button, and you've got no problem.

Something confused me about Gort: One moment, he's protecting Klaatu, exhibiting brutish behavior and seeming invincible while blowing up drones and tanks with his evil laser eye. The next moment, humans are able to capture him in a big box and ship him to an underground lair. The human solution to catching Gort: "Don't make any sudden moves!" Then they just sort of sneak up on him with a container. Brilliant!

Reeves, who has managed to be a little wooden in previous roles, is absolutely flaccid as Klaatu. One gets the sense that he took this role because, essentially, he would not have to do anything but stand around looking bemused. His vocal level rarely goes above "medium drone," and his facial expression offers the same detached look throughout. Reeves apparently turned down the role of Dr. Manhattan in Zack Snyder's Watchmen, but he jumped right aboard this sleep train.

Watching Reeves made me remember that John Carpenter flick Starman, where Jeff Bridges played an alien occupying a human body. That film was another movie in which an alien came to our planet and basically rode around in a car with a girl. Bridges played the thing for laughs, while Reeves does it for a paycheck. Don't get me wrong; I often enjoy Reeves in his films--but when he bombs, he really bombs.

After riding around with Connelly and Smith whining and moaning, Klaatu comes to a decision on the human race, and it wasn't the one I expected, based on how annoying this duo is. I think the film is trying to deliver a message of hope, but the prevailing message seems to be: "Humans suck!" One gets the sense that Al Gore was a ghostwriter on this project.

The best thing I can say about this movie is that it didn't make me want to drive my head through the seat in front of me as much as Four Christmases--and this is basically it for big holiday blockbusters. We were supposed to get Harry Potter and Star Trek this season, but the studios shuffled the dates, and now we just get Keanu and a bunch of psychedelic marble things.

This holiday movie season gets major lumps of coal in the stocking ... KEANU STYLE!!!

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