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Bad Humans, No Planet: Latest in end-times Keanu melodramas a sleep-aid 

click to enlarge Dude, I don't need this. I was in  Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
  • Dude, I don't need this. I was in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
Dude, I don't need this. I was in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
If you're like me, you may have serious concerns about the Keanu Reeves/apocalyptic-star-vehicle industry. Is the stock spiking? Plunging? Should we ask Congress for a bailout?

Well, with The Day the Earth Stood Still, an impossibly boring, humorless, pedestrian remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic, I am proud to inform you that industry is receiving a stimulus of sorts. Turns out crappy Keanu movies are like Detroit sedans: quality doesn't matter, as long as they sell.

Reeves is back in Neo/Messiah mode, as Klaatu, an alien diplomat who travels across the cosmos with his robot, nicknamed "GORT." Klaatu takes human form in an effort to observe people, and ready Earth for his plans.

Anyone who's seen the original - or even the trailer to this film - knows the gist: humans are mucking up the planet. Klaatu is the extraterrestrial exterminator bent on saving Earth from its master species. Like most end-of-the-world films, this one exploits the latent fears among its Goober-munching audience. In the 1951 original, those fears probably hovered around the U.S./Soviet nuclear stalemate. Though for a few dimwitted souls, actual fear of aliens attacking may have been the right nerve to touch. Hey, whatever works, right?

Today, melting glaciers, decaying habitat and climate change seem to be the topical impetuses for resurrecting this once-innovative screenplay. Sorry, but this serious issue deserves a better spokesperson. If the Terminator had to be a tall, pasty guy with an aversion to weight rooms, he would be Keanu Reeves. There's a good reason he's number one on the speed-dial of any director who wants a blank canvas for a face, monotone speech and about as much emoting as you get from a dairy cow on Vicodin. Keeping with his job description, Reeves sleepwalks through much of the film, stopping occasionally to awe panicked humans with his supernatural powers and deadpan proselytizing.

Reeves' one nifty move was only part superpower: A hospital-gown-wearing Klaatu, in an effort to escape the military hospital holding him, strips a scientist of his suit, leaving the man in his underwear. And then Klaatu escapes the facility, apparently content with going commando. Yep, that passed for "interesting" in this film.

Suffice to say, Reeves doesn't bring much to his character, inadvertent free-balling or no. Luckily, Klaatu isn't the film's sole hope for human activity. He gets some help from Jennifer Connelly, who's playing an astrobiologist called in to analyze the giant sphere that lands in Central Park. Jaden Smith, the adorable sidekick (and real life son) to Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness, puts those nepotism accusations on hold with a decent performance as the stepson to Connelly's character.

But the star of the film is ultimately the heavy-handed subject matter. The only hope for The Day the Earth Stood Still would've been an emergency rewrite that transformed it into a parody flick. Instead, they went with the ubiquitous "blow stuff up". And hey, after 80 minutes of comatose acting and uninspired dialogue, the explosions are decent enough smelling salts.

The Day the Earth Stood Still ✩✩✩✩

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith and Kathy Bates. Directed by Scott Derrickson.


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