Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

A mega-budgeted adaptation of a long-since-peaked video-game phenomenon that includes ostentatious plugs for Pepsi, UPS, and Range Rovers, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider plays like the ungodly product of a once-in-a-lifetime alignment of corporate constellations. Anonymously directed by Jerry Bruckheimer disciple Simon West (Con Air), the film stars Angelina Jolie as the eponymous adventurer, a wealthy British archaeologist who discovers a mysterious clock sought by a variety of baddies. Of course, Lara Croft was originally conceived as little more than an Indiana Jones for horny teenage game-players, so it's fitting that her big-screen debut shamelessly apes the enormously popular Spielberg/Lucas trilogy. Channeling adventure serials through Indiana Jones through The Mummy through the Tomb Raider video-game series, the film not surprisingly feels like a dispirited tenth-generation knockoff, complete with stock characters, creaky dialogue, and a supporting cast seemingly imported wholesale from a failing nighttime soap opera. Like The Mummy Returns, which it often resembles, Tomb Raider also seems hell-bent on getting by with as little dialogue as possible. The film's script, story, and adaptation are credited to five different writers, but they seem to view dialogue as a necessary evil, useful only for conveying exposition and linking set-pieces that range from mildly impressive to arbitrary. Much has been made of Jolie's casting as the ultimate adolescent fantasy girl, but she can only do so much with a character who's little more than a super-woman automaton, a pouty-lipped killing machine almost entirely devoid of personality. Jolie may be the most entertainingly unhinged sex symbol this side of Anna Nicole Smith, but her Lara Croft is curiously asexual and predictable. Jolie seems like a perfect physical match for the impossibly buxom video-game adventurer, but Tomb Raider undermines everything that makes the actress a charismatic and compelling presence, turning her into just another cog in a mercenary machine.

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