The Terminal
*** GM
Starring: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Barry Shakaba Henley, Kumar Pallana


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I've got no idea why this movie - a smallish, mildly romantic dramedy - is being released in the summertime, the home of bombastic punching festivals and "Garfield." I also have no idea why none of the ads for this movie have been mentioning the fact that it's directed by Steven Spielberg. Something screwy's going on. Perhaps Spielberg is not allowed to direct a movie and have it be 'small.' Perhaps Tom Hanks is not allowed to star in a 'small' movie. Put the two together, and throw in ACADEGODDAMMY AFUCKINGWARD WINNER Catherine Zeta-Jones, and a fat man in a suit pulls on his suspenders and says "It's a big movie, see!" and his pupils and irises are momentarily replaced by dollar signs. Then he smokes a bit more on his cigar and says "Myah!"

Setup is thus: Tom Hanks is Viktor Navorski, an immigrant from Krakhozia... Krakozhia... hell, a tiny, imaginary Eastern European country we'll refer to henceforth as Latveria. He's come to New York not speaking a lick of English only to discover there was a coup in Latveria - perhaps a rogue Doombot thinking he's the true Victor Von Doom, or perhaps the work of the impetuous dog known as Reed Richards and his accursed Fantastic Four! - and with the government in flux, Viktor's become a man without a country, and thus, is not allowed to leave the JFK airport. For nine months. The airport security chief (Tucci) is hoping he'll just run for it and thus break the law and become someone else's problem, but Viktor's loveable and patient, and finds a way to live and thrive in the airport, making friends with various crewbies and becoming a hero among the workers there, and even going so far as to attempt to tap some International Stewardess Ass in the form of Zeta.

It's a decent film, if somewhat forgettable. Tom Hanks is good ol' Tom Hanks, and chances are I'll like him in any performance he gives. Trouble is he's Tom Hanks, so I only occasionally believed him as a linguistically-challenged foreigner - when he does start teaching himself English and thus starts picking up on conversations better, it wavers into more Hanks and less Navorski from time to time. It's still a good character, though, and bouncing him off of his pals, Chi McBride (who should have had much more to do - we'll call this Ving Rhames Syndrome), Diego Luna and Kumar Pallana, makes for some entertaining moments, despite sometimes feeling contrived.

What really takes one out of the film, though is Zeta. I'll admit to a bit of a bias against her. My impression of Zeta is that she's actually a lot like her character in High Fidelity - i.e. awful, always talking shit, thinks she's interesting. This no doubt affects my perception, but throughout this film, just about everything she said reached my ears as "HEY LOOK AT ME I AM ACTING!" I never once believed she was legitimately attracted to Viktor and, although I appreciate that they didn't take the traditional route with their romance-schmomance, every time she popped up on the screen, I couldn't help but think "okay, time to pitstop for bullshit."

Luckily, for every time Zeta puts the brakes on things, Stanley Tucci's there to bring everything back up to speed. He's smooth, funny, interesting and a very effective and nontraditional antagonist. The most believable character in the film. The second-in-command security chief gunning for the top spot, eager to show off that he's got everything under control and thus disliking Viktor's off-beat presence - this role could have been easily hammed up and made obnoxious, but Tucci humanized it well. Even though he was the 'bad guy' of sorts, he was never someone to really root against, and that's a sign of a good performance.

A reasonably enjoyable film overall, but I came out of the theater thinking it was "cute." In my moviegoing lexicon, this tends to mean "Not very interesting, but at least I'm not angry." Sorry, Kip. They can't all be winners.

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