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Schwarzenegger's latest is no heroic effort

First the good news for Arnold Schwarzenegger fans: Last Action Hero is not another Howard the Duck or Hudson Hawk.

Those birds of a feather flopped together miserably, but Schwarzenegger's blockbuster isn't in that (minor) league.

Last Action hero, however, isn't the Jurassic Park of shoot-'em-ups, either.

Unlike its main competitor for summer movie dollars, this overstuffed movie is never amazing and only rarely amusing.

The premise of Last Action Hero has been pummeled into America's consciousness during weeks of hype. Young Danny Madigan (Austin O'Brien) obtains a magic movie ticket from a mystic projectionist and joins his idol, screen cop Jack Slater (Schwarzenegger) on screen.

Schwarzenegger deserves credit for being a good sport, if not an especially good actor. Last Action Hero is a $65-million valentine to himself, with more inside references than any film since The Player. These, however, can be enjoyed by anyone who has shelled out $6 for any Lethal Weapon or Steven Seagal caper chase.

What screenwriters Shane Black and David Arnott forget is that merely rehashing formula cliches isn't funny. On those few occasions when a new spin is added to those chestnuts, Last Action Hero works as a passable parody. The rest of the time, the jokes fall as flat as Schwarzenegger's delivery of his lines.

A few scenes shine, especially an opening sequence that begins the barrage of inside references with a bang and a hilarious takeoff on Hamlet with Schwarzenegger as a melancholy and mercenary Dane.

Acting skills are as inconsequential here as in the typical cop movies Last Action Hero is joshing. O'Brien is a forgettable graduate of the Corey Feldman school of juvenile acting. Charles Dance makes an urbane villain who, at least, has the good taste to apologize for his bad puns.

Negative advance buzz about Schwarzenegger's rambunctious fantasy has been the subject of numerous media reports. Rumors abound that the film cost at least twice its original $47-million budget and almost missed today's opening date because of late re-shoots to plug narrative holes. Test audience survey results have reportedly been unkind.

Industry rumblings about Last Action Hero were joined this week by theater exhibitors, complaining about paying large advance fees to Columbia Pictures for rights to show the film.

If this sounds like the acts of a desperate studio trying to cover up a potential box office bomb, you're probably correct. Last Action Hero is as loud and bombastic as Boomsday fireworks but, dramatically speaking, it's about as substantial as Burt Reynolds' biggest flop, Cannonball Run.

Last Action Hero is packed with useless cameos by stars slumming for a paycheck or publicity, among them Chevy Chase, Tina Turner, Sharon Stone and Jean-Claude Van Damme.


Last Action Hero