Cruise control

Knight and Day

“I love your hair. It’s so … <i>risky</i>.”

“I love your hair. It’s so … risky.”

Rated 3.0

Tom Cruise gets to do what basically amounts to a comic version of his Mission: Impossible persona Ethan Hunt in Knight and Day, a slick and shallow film that manages to entertain while not necessarily blowing your mind.

Cruise plays Miller, a mysterious man who bumps into the beautiful June Havens (Cameron Diaz) at the airport. The two wind up on a plane together, have a quick chat and realize they have quite a bit in common and would probably like to have sexy time together. Then, when June makes a bathroom pit stop, Miller, for reasons not yet explained, kills everybody on the plane. Hey, it’s in the commercials, so I’m not giving anything away.

Miller ditches the plane in a cornfield, drugs June, and leaves her in her home with breakfast ready. June might think this is the end of Miller, but not so fast. We wouldn’t have a movie if that was it for the middle-aged guy with the boyish grin and cool sunglasses. As things turn out, Miller may or may not be a rogue agent being pursued by the FBI, including an ambiguous fellow named Fitzgerald (the ever reliable Peter Sarsgaard).

Director James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) and Cruise want you to know that the slightly wacky movie star still has it all. For starters, he remains super good-looking. The shirt comes off multiple times and, I must admit, things are quite impressive under there for a 47-year-old man. Jesus, that Scientology shit is like the Fountain of Youth. I might have to start reading me some Dianetics.

He’s also funny. While the yuck factor doesn’t quite reach Les Grossman (his crazed Tropic Thunder character) levels, his conducting a calm conversation while riding on a car hood and shooting bad guys is a hoot. He repeats the “polite and calm in the face of madness” comic routine when he forcibly removes June from a diner, politely putting a bullet through her ex-boyfriend’s (Marc Blucas) leg.

Cruise plays these scenes with his trademark grin, but he doesn’t play them like they are funny. He and Mangold know these scenes are funny based on their outrageousness, and Cruise’s choice to play them straight provides a type of effortless hilarity. Had he gone the slapstick route, he would’ve blown the scenes.

As for Diaz, she’s just not cutting it at this point in her career and represents the film’s weaker moments. She’s far from terrible but, simply put, she isn’t half as good as Cruise in this film. This is the second time the duo has shared the screen together—they had some brief moments in Vanilla Sky—and I just don’t think they have good chemistry. Should’ve gotten Cruise’s wife, Katie Holmes, to play June. That would’ve been an inspired choice.

Sarsgaard heads a supporting cast that includes other semi-big names in small roles. Paul Dano shows his face as a scientist who invented an amazing gadget that Miller is either trying to steal or protect. Maggie Grace has a couple of minutes of screen time as June’s sister, and Viola Davis logs a few days work as an FBI bigwig. With the exception of Sarsgaard, none of the performers really factor. It’s nice to see their faces, but they don’t really do anything.

Nope, this is “The Cruise Show,” and your reason for seeing it is Tom Cruise and little more. Mangold does a nice job setting the stage for his star, providing him with the sort of lightheaded entertainment that the public probably needs to start liking him again.

I remain a diehard Maverick fan, but I can see why his Oprah couch dance and comments about antidepressants may’ve caused many to say, “Screw that guy!” A couple more fun films like this should put him back in the fickle public’s good graces.