Described as "Inspired by Hasbro's classic naval combat board game" Battleship opens Friday, setting a new low to the levels Hollywood will go for ideas. (Although 1985's based-on-a-board-game Clue movie sucked enough to become a cult hit and Real Steal, last year's actioner based on the old Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots game actually made lots of money. And Adam Sandler is set to make an adaptation of Candyland... I shit you not.)
The Battleship movie updates the game. Turns out it's really about alien scouts sent to see if earth is their next vacation spot after we contact them with a giant pulsing radio frequency. So starts a battle at sea, with slacker officer Taylor Kitsch finally getting a chance to prove himself to his do-gooder brother (Alexander Skarsgård) and hard-ass commanding officer (Liam Neeson). And yes, there is a scene where they use “water displacement” analysis to guess where the alien ships are hidden, just like the dumb board game. “It's a hit!”
Battleship director Peter Berg (Hancock, Friday Night Lights) takes a page from Michael Bay's playbook and shamelessly promotes the industrial-military complex while copying imagery, sounds, and almost full scenes from films we've seen before. It's like Pearl Harbor meets Armageddon meets the stuff from Transformers' cutting room floor.
But that's not to say there isn't some fun to be had. Swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker and Rihanna keep the "Hot Chick" factor high and there are lots of explosions and click-clack aliens but mostly Battleship is dumb and long and faux-nostalgic. Plus, everyone knows aliens prefer microwave communication over radio waves. Jeez.
The good news is Battleship looks better than Boogie Nights when you compare it to What to Expect When You're Expecting, a pregnancy movie also opening Friday in both Whistler and Squamish. I haven't seen this one (are you kidding me?) but it's apparent from the trailer — don't let the all-star cast fool you (Brooklyn Decker again!) — this movie needed to wear two condoms when it was conceived.
Thankfully, the week is salvaged by a film that opens with a dedication to the late Korean leader Kim Jong Ill. The Dictactor, Sacha Baron Cohen's latest foray into social and political tastelessness, is finally here.
Knowing that most of the world is onto his faux-documentary trick of dressing up and sabotaging real people, Cohen and director Larry Charles go for the more scripted route. The Dictator is about Admiral General Aladeen, leader of Widya, a fictional North African country, who is summoned to the United Nations in order to explain his "peaceful" nuclear program, multiple human rights violations and overall oppression of everyone.
While in New York, Aladeen is kidnapped by a U.S. extremist (John C. Reilly) and betrayed by his own right-hand man and uncle (Sir Ben Kingsley). Alone and on the outside of power for the first time, our evil hero is forced to work at a vegan food store (run by Anna Faris) and take a good look at himself in the mirror without his holy beard.
Finally blessed with a supporting cast that can match his gusto for improv and overall gonzo awesomeness, Baron Cohen truly shines. The Dictator is full of biting commentary and nut-busting laughs. It's an 86-minute bad taste rollercoaster that tackles everything from women's rights to Jewish/Arab amalgamation to human torture to the asexuality of contemporary activism and more.
With a true character and story arc, Baron Cohen and Larry Charles dish up an intelligent and ridiculous comedy with one main punch line: the real dictators are the ones running our systems.