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  Thursday, June 24, 2004

 Local News

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Spielberg feeling some jet lag, but 'Terminal' entertains

Also in theaters

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (HHH) PG-13: As sports movies go, "Dodgeball" is no "Field of Dreams."

But it does have a side-effect. You'll probably leave the theater wanting to hit the gym with a dozen of your friends and hurl some balls at their heads.

Another side effect? Uncontrolled laughter.

With Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn as rival gym owners who field teams in the dodgeball world championships, we've got a premise ripe with comedic possibility.

And I assure you, no "ball" pun is left unsaid. If you like your comedy silly and crude, you won't have a better time at the movies right now.

Oh, and make sure you stick around for the final gag after the credits roll. A lot of movies pull this trick now, but this one is worth the price of admission by itself.

Steven Spielberg could probably make an entertaining movie with one hand tied behind his back.

With "Catch Me If You Can" he proved he didn't need computer-generated dinosaurs to make a good flick.

And now, with "The Terminal," he's reteaming with Tom Hanks in a movie that boasts a crowd-pleasing pedigree.

The fact that film is probably Spielberg's "worst" movie in years and is still more entertaining than most offerings right now says something.

Hanks plays traveller Viktor Navorski, a resident of the fictional eastern European nation of Krakhozia.

As Viktor lands at JFK International Airport in New York City, he soon learns that he is a man without a nation. Well, he comes as close to learning this as the language barrier will allow.

A coup in Krakhozia while Viktor was en route means that, until the U.S. formally recognizes the nation's new government, it can't allow Viktor to enter American soil with a visa from his homeland.

As airport customs official Frank Dixson (Stanley Tucci) remarks, Viktor is "caught in a crack" in the system. He can't enter America, and he can't return home.

So he takes up residence in the airport, sleeping in an under-construction terminal and subsiding on saltine-and-condiments sandwiches while waiting to sort the red tape out.

As the days pass, Viktor befriends a group of airport workers that look like a cross-section of America and falls in love with a beautiful airline stewardess (Catherine Zeta-Jones), named, of course, Amelia.

Spielberg is, in many ways, using his airport to represent America using Viktor to represent the saga of the immigrant. He never gets heavy handed with the symbolism, but it's bubbling under the surface.

Hanks portrays Viktor with a sweetness and vulnerability that is endearing, though his performance occasionally has a hint of Balki from the '80s sitcom "Perfect Strangers."

The humor in the film uses this crutch a little too much. Hanks' funny accent and cultural misunderstandings turn him into something of a child. We laugh at Viktor, as well as with him.

Occasionally, things get so sugary-sweet that the whole film seems in danger of succumbing to a sap fest. But Spielberg always manages to rein things in at the last minute to keep his gentle comedy grounded.

And he never resorts to whipping out the dinosaurs.


Originally published Thursday, June 24, 2004

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