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Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (PG-13)
Official Site
Director: Simon West
Producers: Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Colin Wilson
Written by: Patrick Massett & John Zinman
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight, Iain Glen, Noah Taylor, Daniel Craig

Rating: out of 5

Sometimes you just can’t buy a thrill. Yeah, I’m pretty old, probably not the demographic the filmmakers had in mind. Hell yeah, I watch way more movies than you do. But LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER gets three stars anyway, more than I really want to give it, because you truly do need to see it on the big screen.

In their attempt to differentiate TOMB RAIDER-the-movie from Tomb Raider-the-game, the writers felt compelled to deliver at least a rudimentary storyline. This they did, with secret organizations like the Illuminati and lots of the mythological BS I’m normally such a sucker for.

But the movie takes too long on backstory. It attempts to set up the who and why of Lara Croft, yet skips over stuff like why Lara is so reckless, the whos and whys of her minions (the butler, channeling Bruce Wayne’s Alfred, and a resident mad scientist-inventor, played by Noah Taylor). Some of the characterization plays off of Jolie’s much-publicized idiosyncrasies—her sexual openness, her fondness for knives, etc. At any rate, when it’s action, it’s all about its business; but otherwise, LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER drags a bit.

The other night, I was knackered and went to bed early and watched SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN. Somewhere, during this, my nth viewing of this classic, I started clocking how quickly the film moved from one musical number to the next. As I sat in the theater watching LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER I realized (okay, I’m a little slow) that action movies are beginning to resemble operas or musicals. Plots are now the extremely thin mortar that tides us over until the next aria, the next dance number, or in this case, the next action set piece.

As I watched LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER I was struck by how much more it had in common with Extreme Sports than a movie. Perhaps this is in keeping with the spirit of the computer game. I don’t know; I never played it. I suspect, though, that fans of the game may feel burdened by the filmmakers’ flimsy attempt to gift-wrap this package in a plot, and movie fans may find that sense-making here is so much grasping at smoke.

Now sense-making and narrative aren’t the raison d’etre here, and well do I know it. So let’s talk about the elephant in the room—Jolie’s/Croft’s breasts. I have to give props to the wardrobe department for some pretty amazing special effects—namely, a no-jiggle foundation garment that allowed Jolie’s breasts to enter each scene several frames ahead of the rest of her. It was only recently, when promotions for this movie began, that I first beheld the original Lara Croft, and I can now pronounce that fans of her assets will not be disappointed by Ms. Jolie’s. Seeing this, director West has taken care that she’s posed in many profile shots and looks-back over her shoulder. (I also like to clock gratuitous washing: West gets Jolie into the shower in nine minutes. Also, for the rest of us, a protracted nude sequence for Croft’s ultra-buff romantic interest later in the movie.)

So what did I get out of TOMB RAIDER? Well, these musings. Jon Voight is a real convincing upper-crusty, academic Lord Croft. Lots of high-tech gadgetry and action here, yet it’s still less exciting than, say RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. And speaking of RAIDERS, one wonders how many are seduced to the study of archaeology by movies, which are so far from the meticulous, at-times tedious reality of an actual dig...

And what was up with Lara Croft riding on the, uh, thrusting phallic symbol that deflowered a jewel in a Buddha-like statue to release a gush of water and light, and then a viscous substance that brought statues to life?

—Roxanne Bogucka, an Action Girl!

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

Mike Doughty

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