THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Here’s a movie that is so ridiculous you have to wonder how it attracted so many recognizable people both in front of and behind the camera. Stealth takes place in “the near future” where the Navy has created an elite core of pilots for cutting-edge duty. We are told that over 400 applicants applied, but only three were accepted. They are Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx).

The trio boards the USS Abraham Lincoln where their commanding officer, Capt. George Cummings (Sam Shepard), introduces them to the fourth member of the team. It is a UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle). In other words, a pilotless plane. This, Cummings tells them, is the future of aerial combat. The UCAV can not only fly complex missions on its own, it can also talk! Gannon and the others are resistant to the new machine, especially since it wants to do things its own way. After the successful completion of an anti-terrorist mission, the UCAV is struck by lightning. With newly fried circuits, it decides to carry out its own missions, blasting rock music out of its internal sound system all the way. Because the UCAV wants to bomb unapproved targets, Gannon, Wade, and Purcell must follow the plane and talk it into stopping. You can’t help but be embarrassed for Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, who has to have an extended conversation with the plane during which he states: “We’re here to help you!” (In Foxx’s defense, this movie was made before his Oscar victory.)

Stealth has a lousy screenplay that includes dozens of clichés. Among them: The character who says he can’t wait to spend Thanksgiving with his family will be dead before the movie is halfway over. Any character who pulls window blinds closed will attempt to kill the other person in the room. The male and female leads will deny their attraction to each other until they endure a life-and-death crisis that ultimately brings them together. And you know those familiar computer-generated shots where the camera appears to enter some kind of machine to show the gears and electrical circuits working? Well, this movie has a lot of them.

Clichés are one thing; inanity is another. One character is told that he’s being arrested for a multitude of serious crimes. He asks the arresting officer if he can have a few minutes to himself. Amazingly, the other guy approves this idea. Smart, real smart. Also absurd is that the whole idea of the renegade plane is something of a red herring since Stealth’s final act involves Gannon trying to rescue Wade from North Korea. (Long story, don’t ask.) Finding her – especially at night – would seem comparable to locating a needle in a haystack, but incredibly Gannon flies right to the exact location where she’s hiding. The heavily armed bad guys can’t find her even though they’ve been chasing her all day, but Gannon – well, he can fly in and find her in a heartbeat.

The casting of the movie is pretty strange. Josh Lucas is credible and effective, but in many of his scenes he must carry out conversations with a talking airplane. Stealth is kind of a cross between Top Gun and “Knight Rider” with a dash of 2001 tossed in. Lucas is too good an actor to be doing material this silly. Jamie Foxx, meanwhile, is stuck playing a modern-day stereotype. Why are African-American characters so often smooth-talking “players” who are obsessed with the ladies? By far, the biggest casting problem comes with the female lead. These characters are supposed to be the three best Navy pilots in the world and one of them is…Jessica Biel? There hasn’t been such unlikely casting since Tara Reid played an anthropologist in Alone in the Dark. Here’s an idea: how about a slightly older and more mature actress in the role? Hilary Swank, perhaps? (Albeit with a much better script.)

The special effects in Stealth are pretty good, but the action scenes misfire badly. They consist of repeated shots of airplanes whizzing toward the camera - over and over and over again. It’s not very exciting, nor is it always easy to follow. One could be forgiven for not knowing what is going on half the time. Director Rob Cohen also made The Fast and the Furious and xXx. He seems to want to challenge Michael Bay for the title of “Most Over the Top Action Director.” I liked Cohen’s other films (in a mindless sort of way) but this time his action scenes are headache-inducing in their loudness and kind of boring. Even bad action movies typically keep your interest with all the mayhem going on. With Stealth, I was actually getting restless during the action scenes because they are so repetitive.

In a movie filled with dumb moments, none is dumber than the one in which Wade ejects herself from the cockpit of her plane, then does a running commentary of her freefall. “I’m ejecting! I’ve ejected now! I’m at 30,000 feet! I’m falling! I’m going to open my parachute! My parachute is opened!” This keeps going until she hits the ground, but you get the picture. Stealth is loud and filled with things blowing up or zooming around. What is lacks is any trace of intelligence, wit, or imagination.

( 1/2 out of four)

Stealth is rated PG-13 for intense action, some violence, brief strong language and innuendo. The running time is 2 hours and 1 minute.

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