Thursday, July 1, 2010

Film Review: Knight and Day

In light of the commercial failure of Knight and Day, some analysis is needed. The movie, which cost some $125 million to produce, has thus far failed to recoup even half that amount at the box office. The question: did it deserve to flop?

The film’s plot, formulaic as it is, pushes the right buttons for a summer action movie. Cruise plays Roy Miller, a rogue secret agent with apparently noble ideals. Cameron Diaz is June Havens, a civilian who’s swept up into Miller’s world by chance. The formula is so well worn that a movie released just a few weeks prior to Knight and Day – the Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl bomb Killers – used it as well.

As is the case with such movies, Knight and Day leaves its identity in the hands of its stars. The leads, Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, are two Hollywood veterans who could once be counted on to rake in the ticket sales. Their performances are predictably solid, and their time on-screen together almost sells the idea that a super spy could fall for a girl next door type after meeting her in an airport.

Audiences long ago learned the appropriate amount of suspended disbelief necessary to accept the diminutive Tom Cruise as an action hero. He’s not doing anything here that’s more difficult to swallow than, say, any of the Mission: Impossible movies. Cameron Diaz, on the other hand, is out of her element in a way the film’s writers didn’t intend. No doubt, she’s perfectly cast as a fairly sheltered middle class woman who is unaccustomed to flying bullets and international espionage.

But the film expects us to believe she owns an auto garage and is completely restoring her father’s dilapidated 1966 Pontiac GTO to give as a wedding present to her sister. It isn’t that a woman as slight as Diaz couldn’t believably get her hands dirty tinkering with muscle cars. The problem is she doesn’t sell the idea, a problem that may well lie more with the script than Diaz. Whenever she talks about the car, it’s as if she has only a passing knowledge of auto restoration. It’s unfortunate, because it turns out that Diaz’s supposed profession plays a sizable role in the movie’s plot.

Other than these minor holes in the plot, Knight and Day makes a perfectly sturdy summer popcorn flick. It’s funny at times, particularly the interactions between Cruise and Diaz, and there’s no shortage of gunfire and explosions. Why, then, did no one really care when it was released?

The most likely culprit: star power, or lack thereof. The leads certainly haven’t lost their acting edge, but this is the age of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. In comparison, Cruise and Diaz are most likely in the twilight of their years of drawing the 18-35 demographic based on name recognition alone. Pair that with an essentially nameless summer paint-by-numbers flick and it’s a recipe for a big disappointment.

The bottom line: expect plenty of light entertainment from Knight and Day. Expect a similarly plentiful number of empty seats in the theater.

5 out of 10

No comments: