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Friday, July 29, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Stealth": When bang! and zoom! add up to zzzz

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 1 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Stealth," with Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Sam Shepard, Joe Morton, Richard Roxburgh. Directed by Rob Cohen, from a screenplay by W.D. Richter. 121 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense action, some violence, brief strong language and innuendo. Several theaters.

Rob Cohen's airborne adventure "Stealth" commits the cardinal sin for an action movie: It's very, very dull. You don't need to take my word for it; just ask the gentleman sitting to my right at the preview screening last week. During the film's supposedly very exciting finale, with planes swooping around and things exploding and music clashing and Jessica Biel's hair getting a bit mussed, I heard a strange sound — not coming from the screen — and turned my head to investigate. Yes, it was a snore.

So is most of "Stealth," with the exception of a comically calm-voiced artificial intelligence pilot/robot (he sounds like a cross between HAL from "2001" and an especially pleasant therapist) and a brief, dignified cameo appearance by the Space Needle.

The plot, as much as it matters in this video game of a movie, involves three elite U.S. Navy pilots, played picturesquely by Biel, Josh Lucas and Jamie Foxx. They are joined in their terrorist-fighting endeavors by an experimental new "wingman" — a UCAV (unmanned combat aerial vehicle) known as EDI, or Eddie.

In the course of the film, we learn a lot of things, such as that female elite Navy pilots keep lots of pretty lingerie on clotheslines in their tiny rooms on the aircraft carrier, that getting lost in North Korea is a very bad idea, and that 3 is a prime number. (Prime numbers are, of course, carefully defined for us — heaven forbid this movie assume that its audience knows anything.)

A mysterious figure (Richard Roxburgh) is revealed, who lives in Seattle (hence the Needle's star turn). He has a sexy, miniskirted British assistant, as everyone in Seattle does, and his name provides the movie's only punch line: Keith Orbit.

All of this silliness is punctuated by a lot of video-game-like action sequences, with our heroic pilots zooming around like they're late to a frat party. And no sooner do we get accustomed to the cozy threesome when three becomes a crowd — never mind about prime numbers. One cast member vanishes, so suddenly that you wonder what siren call (of, perhaps, a better movie shooting elsewhere?) was heard. Director Cohen attempts distraction by putting Biel in a bikini, or cutting back to boss men Sam Shepard and Joe Morton having a sort of territory-marking contest back at headquarters, but nothing holds our interest in terms of story or character — just two very long hours.

There's nothing wrong with making a silly action movie, but this one just feels lazy. And it attempts unearned relevance by invoking real tragedy, solemnly reminding us of "the mounting threat of terrorism" in its opening title card. "I don't think war should be some kind of video game," says Lucas, midway through the story. Indeed.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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