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11/13/2009

'2012' an unintentional disaster-laugher

"2012" is quite entertaining, really, as a comedy of absurd preposterous overkill.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure Roland Emmerich, who juggles hats and the Earth's crust as director, co-writer and executive producer, hoped for a slightly more reverent response as our planet crumbles and L.A. goes bye-bye.

Emmerich, you see, is a victim himself, of sorts.  It would seem that ever-advancing special-effects, especially when gifted computer nerds are writing the codes, have reached the point where nothing is impossible.  In reality, that is not the case.  

Dialogue without heaping helpings of cheese remain out of the grasp of disaster filmmakers; especially one named Emmerich.  He's the director who scored big with the patriotic flag-waver "Independence Day" in 1996 but managed to turn hulking sea monster "Godzilla" into a giant bore two years later.

Emmerich co-wrote this astonishingly inept and seemingly never-ending doomsday script (two and a half hours and change) with composer/screenwriter Harald Kloser, who penned the grunts in "10,000 B.C.," Emmerich's most recent expansive yawner.

The premise of this one hooks onto the Mayan myth/prediction (take your pick) that on Dec. 21, 2012 something catastrophic or quite enlightening (take your pick) is going to happen to Mother Earth.

It's no surprise that Emmerich, who subjected moviegoers to a fierce alien attack in "Independence Day," the citizen stomper/chomper "Godzilla"  remake and global warming floods with "The Day After Tomorrow" would take the negative, destructive view.

The guy obviously likes to wipe out iconic landmarks.  Granted, he destroys things real good in "2012."  Los Angeles slips off into the Pacific.  A tsunami slams the U.S.S.  John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier into the White House and earthquakes rumble.

John Cusack ("The Ice Harvest," "1408") is a very good actor ("War, Inc." was too cynical to catch on) who manages to keep a straight face throughout.  He takes on failed author, failed husband and failed dad Jackson Curtis, this scenario's everyman who stumbles across a plan to save a select group of Earthlings.  Amanda Peet has too little to do as his ex-wife  Kate.

And then there are the politicos.  Cusack may have top billing, but the real lead is Chiwetel Ejiofor ("Redbelt," "Talk to Me").  He's the scientist who informs President  Danny Glover that, basically, Mother Earth is about to blow her top.

It's a huge ensemble cast.  Thandie Newton (daughter of the prez), Woody Harrelson (a mountain kook who may not be as dumb as he sounds) and Oliver Platt (greedy government official) all show up between spectacular shots of Yellowstone National Park erupting in molten fireballs, Hawaii in flames, Vegas crumbling, etc.

Before things get too erratic and divorced husband/loving dad John Cusack fights to get his estranged family to safety, a mom and her plastic surgeon boyfriend have this little dialogue exchange (or something similar) in the local supermarket.

He:  "I don't know.  I just sense that something is coming between us."

Cue the earthquake.  Sure enough, a giant abyss -- literal, not emotional -- separates them.

Roland, Roland, Roland.

If you go for the unintentional fun, you can get your money's worth of yuks from "2012."  Just don't expect much gee-whiz end-of-the-world awe.  Emmerich and visual effects supervisor Marc Weigert destroy so much and do it so well technically, it all plays like elaborate falling dominoes after a while.

"2012" is an extremely drawn-out overblown (and overly blown up) special-effects ride driven by grossly overstated melodramatic cheese warmed over with a few tender moments.

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