2005-05-13 / Columnists


By Robert Snyder

Where’s Steven Spielberg when we need him? Well, he certainly wasn’t making the “Indiana Jones” wannabe, “Sahara.” In fact, he’s creating what is anticipated as this summer’s blockbuster, “The War of the Worlds.”

Based on one of Clive Cutler’s Dirk Pitt adventure novels, “Sahara” gives Matthew McConaughey the wisecracking action hero role that he was born to play. And it’s McConaughey and the prettiness of Penelope Cruz that keeps “Sahara” from drying up in the desert.

The adaptation by four screenwriters struggles to make sense out of a ridiculously complex plot, which has deep-sea driver/treasure-hunter Dirk (McConaughey)  and his comic sidekick Al Giordino (Steve Zahn) searching for a Confederate Civil War Ironclad battleship in the middle of the Sahara desert. It has something to do with a Confederate coin. Also, Dr. Eva Rojas (Cruz) of the World Health Organization is out there trying to stop the outbreak of a plague that’s in the underground water supply. They’re up against a tribal warlord General Kazim (Lennie James) and evil French power plant owner Massarde (Lambert Wilson) who, for some strange reason, want to keep the plague going. As the heroic dynamic duo’s ineffectual boss, Admiral Sandecker, bearded William H. Macy gets to say, “You have 72 hours,” to launch the adventure.

Along the way, we have a speed boat battle, a camel-to-train chase and various shootouts between the heroes and Kazim’s interchangeable soldiers. However, it’s all been done better by Spielberg.

Helmed by first-time feature director Breck Eisner, the film highlights gorgeous locations in Morocco and Spain (substituting for Nigeria and Mali). But, the ‘70’s rock songs make the movie seem more ancient that its settings (how many times have we heard “Sweet Home Alabama” in a film?).

With very little excitement on the screen these days, “Sahara” may be for you if you have nothing to do and money to spend. Still, why not wait until it hits the video stores or see what Spielberg’s up to this summer.

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