The summer of comic book adaptations continues with “Green Lantern,” a rather dull and feeble attempt to make a franchise out of the popular DC super hero. This is a film that tries really hard but never captures the fun and imagination of an “Iron Man” or “Thor.”
Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordan, an Air Force pilot who comes upon an alien spacecraft with a dying creature from another world. Jordan is given a mysterious green ring by the alien - making him part of an elite brotherhood of warriors known as the Green Lantern Corps.
The ring also comes with superpowers, allowing Jordan to create anything he can imagine.
At first the Green Lanterns are reluctant to accept their newest member, but when a new enemy called Parallax threatens to destroy the balance of power in the universe, possessing a scientist named Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), Jordan is Lantern’s best hope to keep the peace.
This is one of the more predictable summer entries to date, with a pedestrian screenplay that doesn’t leave much room for creativity. Jordan’s backstory, including some serious daddy issues, is rather bland and his love interest (Blake Lively in a really lifeless performance) serves no other purpose than to provide the film with a damsel in distress in the final act.
Reynolds puts his “Van Wilder” persona to good use here, having a few good moments as the cocky pilot who is transformed into reluctant hero. Sarsgaard manages to be creepily effective, despite being overshadowed by an expanding forehead that grows as the film progresses.
There are also brief appearances by Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett that provide the film with a few “What are they doing here?” moments.
Director Martin Campbell, whose resume includes a couple of James Bond movies and the last two Zorro films, delivers a film that is competent enough, but the film never rises above a screenplay that seems to be pulling in several directions, leaving the material battling with tone and consistency.
The result is a lifeless attempt at a blockbuster that never quite gets out of the block. The final scene may hint at future “Green Lantern” films, but unless there is a serious makeover, one “Lantern” is more than enough.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is the Sundance Film Festival hit “Cedar Rapids” (B-), a slightly uneven comedy with enough laughs to overcome the lulls.
Ed Helms stars as Tim Lippe, an insurance salesman in Brown Valley, Wis., whose life is turned upside down when the company’s hot shot salesman dies, forcing Tim to represent the agency at the annual convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Tim quickly finds himself in a crazy new world and seeks the help of three convention veterans - Anne Heche, John C. Reilly and Isiah Whitlock Jr. - who try to guide the naive man through the cutthroat world of insurance sales.
Helms’ character is kind of a dimwit and, honestly, the weakest part of the film. I’m still not sure if the audience is supposed to be laughing at or laughing with his character, who is far too naive for his own good.
Still, the strength - and the laughs - in “Cedar Rapids” come from the supporting characters. Heche is very confident and quite impressive here, while Reilly’s character has unexpected layers - more than just the wisecracking loudmouth the trailers suggest.
Whitlock gets the most laughs as a straight-laced man who is a far cry from his work on TV’s “The Wire” - which is referenced in the film.
Those three characters seem much more grounded in reality than Lippe, giving “Cedar Rapids” a stream of laughs as well as a bit of heart and soul.
“Cedar Rapids” is rated R for crude and sexual content, language and drug use, and is now available on DVD.