ANOTHER DUD FROM JOLIE AS SHE IS OUTSHONE BY SCOTS HUNK BUTLER

Category: Tomb Raider 2 Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: August 22, 2003 | Publication: Daily Record (Scotland) | Author: Alan Morrison
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LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE (12A) **

SCREEN stunner Angelina Jolie must wake up every morning wondering where it all went horribly wrong.

There she was, with an Oscar win for Girl Interrupted, a spiced-up private life she was only too happy to talk about, and a shot at playing the sexiest icon ever created by the computer games industry.

Now it's over a year since she split from Billy Bob Thornton, her movie choices have dropped from bad (Original Sin) to worse (Life Or Something Like It), and her second outing as Lara Croft has fallen flatter than the first. It'll take more than those pouty lips to put this girl back on track.

The original Tomb Raider movie earned derision from most critics and grumbles from most fans, but went on to amass a huge box office take. Like it or not, a sequel was inevitable.

The filmmakers promised to right their wrongs. More story, better action, fiery romance. Well, they haven't put their money where their mouths are. Even with Speed director Jan De Bont on board instead of Simon West, this one lumbers from one ham- fisted set-piece to the next, before blowing any lingering goodwill with an astonishingly incompetent climax.

Lara's latest adventure begins off the coast of Greece, where an earthquake has opened up an undersea temple built by Alexander the Great. She thinks it's a discovery to rival the tomb of Tutankhamun. So too do some oriental baddies, who kill her helpers and make off with a mysterious glowing globe.

This golden ball isn't a treasure in itself, however. It's an intricate map that, when opened by a particular set of soundwaves, will indicate the hiding place of the legendary Pandora's Box.

And if this chest is opened, untold plagues will be unleashed, destroying most of the Earth and its population.

Nasty business, but that's the goal of former scientist turned lunatic villain Dr Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds), who sees it as the ultimate biological weapon. It's up to Lara to get there first. To do so, she needs help from someone who can get close to those eastern assassins. There's only one man for the job: Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler).

The fact that Terry is incarcerated in a secret Eastern European prison is a small problem. The fact that he's a cold- hearted mercenary who's hated by the British secret service as a traitor to his country is a bigger one. The fact he and Lara used to be an item... well, that's not something this hard- punching action girl is going to allow to get in the way of the job, is it?

Now the plot has been set in motion - in a clumsy manner - it's time to jump around the planet and have fun. Or so the audience hopes.

Perhaps the writers blindfolded themselves, opened an atlas at random and pointed to a page. There doesn't seem to be any other logical formula to Lara's globetrotting. Over the next couple of hours, she'll go diving in Greece, motorbiking along the Great Wall of China and on safari in Africa.

It should make for interesting wallpaper, but it doesn't, because the film lacks a single, stand-out stunt that would lift this travelogue from being merely a distraction - 007 wouldn't get out of bed for this nonsense.

Deep down, that's the problem with Tomb Raider 2. It's big, noisy and expensive - but no fun. Watching this is a chore that's not rewarded by exciting set- pieces. All that brightens things up are the designer wardrobes that Lara appears to have stashed in every port.

Actually, the film does have one thing going for it other than Jolie's Bond with bumps routine - and that's Gerard Butler. More charismatic and buffed up than Dougray Scott, Robert Carlyle or Ewan McGregor, the 33- year-old Glaswegian is one of the few elements that isn't one-dimensional

It's Butler who brings an edge to the Terry-Lara love interest. He's the one who adds a touch of intrigue to the plot, as we're never quite sure where Terry's loyalties lie. And, if it wasn't for him, the ending would be an utter washout. With action movie Timeline and musical The Phantom Of The Opera on the horizon, he's perhaps the only person who will emerge from this with credibility intact.

Jolie certainly won't. Nor will De Bont, who fluffs every action sequence. Nor will the writers, who make a basic plot error - if Pandora's Box is so dangerous, why doesn't Lara just smash the globe- map, so no one could find it?

But logic isn't on the menu today. Nor, unfortunately, is a good night out. This is a dud of major proportions.

As far as the Tomb Raider movies are concerned, surely it's finally game over for Lara Croft?

Copyright 2003 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday Mail Ltd.