Stormbreaker aka Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker (2006)

(In theaters, October 2006) Spy movies for the younger set have enjoyed a small wave of popularity with the Spy Kids and Cody Banks series, but redoing Bond for the younger high school kids requires a bit more than simply a Bond story with a younger protagonist: Alas, the first filmed instalment of the Alex Rider series doesn’t even try too hard to get to that level. If adults are likely to be amused by the film’s almost camp approach, it still takes itself too seriously to be appreciated as a self-aware piece of absurdity. Instead, we’re left groaning as the increasingly ludicrous set pieces betray a lack of spatial logic and of elementary spycraft. While the supporting players are very good (with a cast like Stephen Fry, Robbie Coltrane, Bill Nighy, Mickey Rourke, Andy Serkis and the luscious Sophie Okonedo, it’s hard to sink a film –though this one comes close), the problem is with Alex Rider himself, who is envisioned and played as an adult’s idea of teen cool, with disastrous results: Rider comes across as a sullen, smarmy and incompetent protagonist, one that owes more to Johnny English than James Bond. The disconnect between what the film is and what it wants to be is only too obvious when it’s contrasted against some wonderfully loopy moments in the film itself, whether it’s Fry’s deadpan gags or Nighy’s caricature of a stiff high-echelon bureaucrat. But few problems rankle as much as the terminally asinine staging, from the most contrived helicopter take-off in history to the way the characters don’t even act like what they’re supposed to be. In the end, I suspect that the younger teenage target audience will look at the movie and think “Do they really think we’re stupid enough to like this?”

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