A better title for this weeper would be "49 Hankies," one of each should be
distributed to every third woman or so coming through the ticket counter.
It revolves around the tension-building details and natural drama of
fire-fighting, with the occasional deft touch of physical techniques, and the
melodrama of one man's love, marriage, becoming a father, and maybe or maybe
not coming home one night.
For some reason I kept visualizing Denzell Washington in the lead role,
thinking he might have the juice to lift it off the (boring) written page but
finally decided that even he couldn't effect a rescue. At least the part of
central figure Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) as the rookie who grows into a
hero (do you smell a cliche here?) got the actor the material warrants.
John Travolta as his semi-adoring captain and beloved leader turns in another
uncourageous piece of work but we're happy to see him working these days in
whatever project he can dig up. We wouldn't want him away from our screens
for too long so it may be unfair to expect too much.
Jacinda Barrett ("The Human
Stain") as the lucky lady who falls for the courageous savior of fire
victims provides the right look and feel for a portrayal that the writers
kept at the right distance for a stereotype, but I got the impression that
this Australian beauty will be showing up in better work. We wouldn't want
to get too wrapped up in the relationship when there are so many different
types of fires and disaster situations to cover.
Pretty underwhelming material that's going to warm the cockles of countless
uncritical hearts beating in the chests of those who want their drama spoon
fed and predictable. The more the better and this film that Disney should
have done smokes up the place with all that and more.
The sentiments many Americans feel about firefighters these 3 years after
9/11 are not well served by a movie with such a watered down portrayal of
their realities. It's a hose-job of sentimentality and stereotyping.
~~ Jules Brenner