Favorite

Magical Mystery Bore 

Don't go looking for 'The Missing.'

For a while there, Ron Howard had me hooked with his latest, The Missing. The director's second kidnapping movie in less than 10 years after Ransom (1996) is an attempt at the Western genre that looks great, features some sensational acting and decent thrills. But some ridiculous supernatural elements and strange attempts to keep things a little too clean hurt the movie.

As Maggie, a frontier woman with two daughters and a murky occupation as a "healer," Cate Blanchett does some decent work. We first see her in the outhouse and then in a rather grueling scene as she removes a rotting tooth from an elderly woman. When one of her ranch hands and current lover (Aaron Eckhart) takes in a drifter for a meal, Maggie discovers that the mysterious man called Jones (Tommy Lee Jones) is her long-absent father.

He'll get his chance to make amends when Maggie's older daughter Lilly (the impressive Evan Rachel Wood of Thirteen) is kidnapped by a spooky and ugly-as-all-hell Apache witch (Eric Schweig) and placed in a harem of young women to be sold into Mexican slavery. Maggie needs Jones' tracking abilities out on the great frontier, and it's a good bet they will bond before the movie is through, not without the requisite bickering and "Where were you when I needed you?" proclamations, of course.

For the first half of the film, Howard seems very much in command of his movie. Maggie's discovery of the kidnapping's grisly aftermath is a chiller--one of the better sequences Howard has ever crafted. As Maggie and Jones set off on Lilly's trail, there is a true sense of anticipation that their journey might be a thrilling one. After some initial thrills, everything begins to come apart.

For starters, while 10-year-old Jenna Boyd as younger daughter Dot is a startlingly good actress, the film's excuse for taking her along on the rescue mission is bullshit. She's just there so the film can have not one, but two young girls in peril. Also, it just doesn't seem to be a good idea to interrupt your otherwise bare-boned, based-in-reality Western thriller with a dumb-assed diversion into the supernatural. When the witch comes across a patch of Maggie's hair, he casts a curse on her, a curse that can only be dispelled by Jones'Apache incantations and Dot reading calmly from the Bible. This is unintentionally hilarious.

I know Jones' character has been living with the Apaches, and I know that would probably result in some long hair, but the make-up department screwed up this job. Decked out in extensions that would make Britney Spears envious, Jones just looks silly with his mane, and it's hard to get past it. The hair is too beautiful and clean, as if one of Vidal Sassoon's hairdressing ancestors is running around after him with a brush, taking care of all those nasty snarls and knots brought on by the rigors of frontier life. They should've thrown some braids or motor oil in the hair to give it that lived-in look. He looks like a hair model whose face quit a long time ago, but his tresses continue to stun and amaze.

Perhaps a story featuring Native American villains such as this didn't need to be told. Howard strains to keep everything politically correct, with heroic Native Americans to balance out the villainous ones and the Apache witch who is sick enough to tear out a man's heart, but refrains from sexually assaulting his hostages. When you have to work that hard to keep things balanced, your film starts to attain a doctored, false vibe. Howard would've been better off to just avoid such an unnecessarily ugly story altogether and make a sequel to Splash!

The Missing
Rated NR

More by Bob Grimm

  • Deja Voodoo

    Happy Death Day is a decent enough, kinda scary mash-up of Groundhog Day and Scream
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • Runner's High

    This sequel is a gorgeous trip back to the future
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • Flights of Fancy

    The life of pilot Barry Seal seems hard to believe in American Made
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Pop Hit

    The Lonely Island crew delivers a music mocumentary that belongs at the top of the charts
    • Jun 9, 2016
  • Wave Not

    The Wave is better than some disaster flicks out there, but the best thing about it could be the Norwegian scenery
    • Mar 3, 2016

The Range

TSO Presents 007-themed Show Next Weekend

Laughing Stock: Odd as Ever; Ever Laughable

The Weekly List: 24 Things To Do In Tucson This Week

More »

Latest in Cinema Feature

  • Reel Indie

    Another week of indie films is upon us, and Film Fest Tucson is taking center stage in its four-day run.
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • Deja Voodoo

    Happy Death Day is a decent enough, kinda scary mash-up of Groundhog Day and Scream
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Fun and (Spy) Games

    Kingsman: The Golden Circle brings the franchise to America for more over-the-top espionage hijinks
    • Sep 28, 2017
  • More »

Facebook Activity

© 2017 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation