Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austin O’Brien, Charles Dance
A boy receives a magical ticket that allows him to cross between reality and movies. He gets embroiled in an action movie that ends up spilling over into reality.
The foundation of Last Action Hero is this: a boy in New York gets a magic ticket that allows him to physically cross over into the alternate reality of the movie world. He crosses over into the world of Jack Slater, a police action hero played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is a movie pitch that might sound good after a couple of dozen beers, but the sad reality is that Last Action Hero is a movie idea that should never have been made into a movie. The premise is dumber than Paris Hilton.
Let’s be kind, though. Last Action Hero perhaps could have overcome its unique premise if it had been better executed. However, the movie focuses too much on explaining and developing the premise, and spends too much energy in parody of the action movie genre. This heavy focus ultimately drags the story down, lengthens the movie, and gets repetitive. The result is that the plot feels in many ways secondary to the concept. Also, the premise has some incredibly dopey elements. In one scene, TNT comes flying through a movie screen into the theater. In another scene, the protagonist’s mom calmly accepts that the Arnold Schwarzenegger her son has brought home has come right out of an alternative movie reality. In the ending of the movie, movie reels begin to play of their own accord. Admittedly, I greatly enjoyed the distinction the movie makes between reality and the alternate reality of the action movie, but after a while Last Action Hero is just so hokey, over the top, and haphazard that it’s hard to buy into what happens.
Even considering this overemphasis on the premise, the story wanders of its own accord and is put together rather sloppily. Scenes drag on too long. Some scenes just don’t fit into the movie. For example, early in the movie’s protagonist encounters a thief. Although there is one tiny element of this encounter that figures into an escape later in the film, the scene is largely a waste of time. Supporting actors, as well, play disjoint and often insignificant roles in the movie. On the whole, the film seems to get lost quite often, the story stalls, and the viewer’s mind wanders.
There are other significant problems. Although Arnold Swarzenegger plays a significant role in the movie, the protagonist is a Danny Madigan, a young boy played by Austin O’Brien. O’Brien suffers from all the limitations that plague a 12-year-old actor: his acting skills are weak; he is unconvincing; and he overacts. It’s rare that a young actor can carry a film, and Last Action Hero proves the rule rather than the exception. His role as the lead also put more stress on the already dubious premise: there are many situations in the real world portion of the film where it’s just unrealistic to have Danny doing the things he does. For example, at one point Danny goes hunting around New York with Jack Slater in search of a murderer, right after his mother is furious with him for going out to a midnight showing of a movie. Sigh.
The action element of the movie is a mixed bag. Some of the scenes entertain well enough. The action is generally light, mixed with humor, and occasionally good for a laugh. The cavalier physics of the movie reality and the indestructible Jack Slater provide for some of the brighter moments of the movie. But even these scenes often go on too long, aren’t all that entertaining or funny, and ultimately weigh in as forgettable.
In many other areas, Last Action Hero is mediocre. The script has a couple of interesting moments, but Austin’s poor acting obstructs any possible appreciation for the writing. The main villain in the movie, played by Charles Dance, is distinctly average in his role. Visual effects and stunts are generic and dated.
As for babes and hunks, the movie blows a golden opportunity in severely limiting the role of Bridgette Wilson, who plays Jack Slater’s daughter. From the way the movie portrays her at the start, you expect her to figure more prominently in the movie, and a bit of eye candy would have gone a long way in distracting the viewer from the film’s significant weaknesses. As for hunks, Arnold is beginning to wane here, and the rest of the cast is bland.
In conclusion, Last Action Hero is a movie about a premise, and a rather absurd premise at that. Furthermore, a poor leading role, a lack of focus, and mediocre action scenes pull this film into obscurity. The resultant parody, comedy, and story can be interesting at times, but largely fails.
Steven Spielberg turned down a director’s role on this film. He directed Schindler’s List instead. Smart man.
Consistent Premise: 80
Body Count: 45
Time to First Dead Body: 1 minute, 16 seconds
Special Effects: 22
Overall: 41 (Needs Focus)