Cinematic standstill

Just a reminder: “Keanu” is a Hawaiian word that means “a soft breeze over the mountain.”

Just a reminder: “Keanu” is a Hawaiian word that means “a soft breeze over the mountain.”

Rated 2.0

Global warming replaces the Cold War in this remake of the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still, which amounts to a tedious time at the movies. A not-too-sprightly Keanu Reeves steps into the role of Klaatu, an alien ambassador in human form who has come to tell Earthlings that their days of screwing up the planet are over. Their refusal to recycle isn’t appreciated by legions of aliens who’ve been observing with disdain. It’s time for the apocalypse … KEANU STYLE!

In this case, KEANU STYLE means laidback and boring. The film boasts a few alien carnage scenes—Giants Stadium and a big truck get eaten by swarming metallic bugs—but most of the film is spent in cars, apartments and hospital settings. Klaatu, after a very rude introduction where he gets his alien ass shot, winds up in a series of interrogation rooms before busting out, rather easily I might add, and driving around with a soft-spoken scientist named Helen (Jennifer Connelly) and her whiny stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith).

The flying saucer of the original has been replaced by swirling orbs that would be totally cool if won in a spirited game of marbles but are rather bland as movie alien space vehicles. Sci-fi junkies might be glad to hear that the menacing robot from the original film, Gort, has returned with his laser eye. Their gladness would be replaced by irksome feelings when they see how crappy Gort is rendered through CGI. He’s obviously a cartoon, which makes him a little less menacing. Don’t shoot him with tanks and whatnot, just press a delete button, and you’ve got no problem.

Something confused me about Gort. One moment he’s protecting Klaatu, exhibiting brutish behavior as if invincible. He blows up drones and tanks with his evil laser eye, yet humans are able to eventually capture him in a big box and ship him to an underground lair. The human solution to catching Gort: “Don’t make any sudden moves!” They just sort of sneak up on him with a container. Brilliant!

Reeves, who has managed to be a little wooden in some past roles, is absolutely flaccid as Klaatu. One gets the sense that he took this role because he could go emotionless alien and, essentially, not have to do anything but stand around looking bemused. His vocal level rarely goes above “medium drone” and his facial expression is the same “Keanu-is-detached” look throughout. Reeves apparently turned down the role of Dr. Manhattan in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, but he jumped right aboard this sleep train. Jury’s still out on Watchmen, but his participation in this film can’t be deemed critically laudable.

Watching Reeves made me remember that John Carpenter flick Starman, where Jeff Bridges plays an alien occupying a human body. That film was another movie where an alien came to our planet and basically rode around in a car with a girl. Bridges played the alien inhabiting a human thing for laughs, while Reeves does it for a paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, I often enjoy Reeves in his films. But when he bombs, he really bombs.

After riding around with Connelly and Smith whining and moaning, Klaatu comes to a decision on the human race, and it wasn’t the one I expected based on how annoying this duo is. I think the film is trying to deliver a message of hope, but the prevailing message seems to be “Humans suck!” One gets the sense that Al Gore was a ghostwriter on this project.

I guess the best thing I can say about this movie is that it didn’t make me want to drive my head through the seat in front of me as much as Four Christmases did. This is basically it for big holiday blockbuster fare. We were supposed to get Harry Potter and Star Trek but the studios shuffled dates, and now we just get Keanu and a bunch of psychedelic marble things. Major lumps of coal in the stocking this holiday movie season. Major lumps of coal … KEANU STYLE!

Holland has a posse

Screening this week at the Nevada Museum of Art, The Holland Project presents Beautiful Losers, a documentary film about a group of rebellious, self-taught artists, skateboarders and designers. The group includes Shepard Fairey, the mastermind behind the original “Andre the Giant has a Posse” sticker campaign, as well as the writer and filmmaker Harmony Korine and others. It’s unclear whether the titular allusion to the Leonard Cohen book is intentional. Screening is Dec 18 at the NMA, 60 West Liberty St., doors open at 5:30 p.m., show starts at 6 p.m. This screening has sold out, but The Holland Project added a second screening, 6 p.m. on Jan. 24, at the Joe Crowley Student Union. $8 in advance. To learn more about the film and future screenings, visit

compiled by Brad Bynum