Last Action Hero

This failed attempt at a postmodern blockbuster (surely a first) has perhaps four or five decent laughs, mostly involving Frank McRae doing the same apoplectic bit he did in 48 HRS (this time he’s so pissed every other word is gibberish) and Charles Dance grooving on his Alan Rickman shtick. Otherwise it’s a bombastic, rhythmless mess. For one thing, a deconstructionist work has to have a text to deconstruct, and the average action flick has no text. Second, the movie is contemptuous of the audience to whom it was marketed. Third, an expensive parody of an expensive stupid-shit explosion scene is about the same as an actual expensive stupid-shit explosion scene. Shit still blows up stupidly.

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Jack Slater, the movie hero within the movie. Arnie also plays himself as the actor who plays Jack Slater. Don’t ask. Newcomer Austin O’Brien, not exactly a find, is a kid who gets drawn into the new Jack Slater movie by a “magic ticket.” There are inconsistencies in the film’s wink-wink insider “I subscribe to Premiere” rib-nudging: the kid recognizes F. Murray Abraham as “the guy who killed Mozart,” but fails to recognize his mom (Mercedes Ruehl) as the actress who won an Oscar for The Fisher King. (Not that we blame him — Ruehl phones it in here — but the mom should’ve been played by an unknown.) The film actually ends around the same time it starts getting interesting — when Jack and the kid re-enter the real world and find out that movie rules don’t apply. Stuffed with hip, meaningless cameos that sometimes seem to require those dorks you hear on Oscar night announcing stars on the red carpet: “There’s Sharon Stone, 1995 nominee. Emmy winner Chevy Chase!…” Three years later, the far smarter, more unassuming and much less expensive Scream showed Arnie and company how genre deconstruction is done. Shamefaced director John McTiernan next retreated into familiar, I-can-still-make-a-hit territory with Die Hard with a Vengeance.

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