Not all holiday action is created equal

<i>Waterworld</i>: This movie still doesn’t float.

Waterworld: This movie still doesn’t float.

Our best holiday tradition involves ordering a precooked dinner from the Safeway deli, wearing comfy flannel jammies all day and watching action movies, because nothing says “Happy Holidays” like explosions and snappy dialogue. As always, the new crop of DVD releases for holiday viewing prove that not all holiday action is created equal.

For instance, take a pass on the new extended version of Waterworld, unless you’re interested in deconstructing how to ruin a good sci-fi epic. Waterworld is sad—and the extended version is no exception—if for no other reason than the sacrificed potential. It’s got a premise to die for: What will survive in a world where the sea level has risen catastrophically? Even the mutant and pirate subplots, in and of themselves, are intriguing, and the quest for dry land is a worthy one.

But instead of paying a writer, Kevin Costner and company went for a cheap joke of a pirate mother ship. Even the explosions can’t save this movie.

On the other hand, Wanted isn’t nearly as bad as it might have been—and I’m not just saying that because it’s got Angelina Jolie. (Rule of action movies: Angelina Jolie is greater than or equal to 50 explosions.) What Wanted lacks in explosions, it makes up for in operatic car chases. Then there’s the whole business of hiring people who can act, which is always a good thing.

Finally, James McAvoy is the perfect slacker hero—unlike the comic book Wesley, who was really kinda harsh, McAvoy’s Wesley is just sad. We can relate. After all, there’s a lot of getting beaten up involved in this movie, and not nearly enough blowing things up.

And the last on the list is The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Now this is how to do action right: a plucky, everyman lead who doesn’t act like he knows how good-looking he is; a lovely, plucky and (far smarter than he is) wife; a good-looking kid following in his footsteps—and yeah, a mummy. Special effects have improved with each film in the series, and this one adds a good chunk of martial arts (thank you, Jet Li). While I miss Rachel Weisz, who can argue with Maria Bello?

Best suggestion for a holiday action marathon: Run all three of the mummy movies, stuff your face and stay in your jammies all day.