Stealth
Grade: C
Year: 2005
Director: Rob Cohen
Writer: W.D. Richter
Genre: Action
Rated: PG-13
By Scott Spicciati

THE IMPORTANCE OF SURGE PROTECTORS

I was prepared to lose all credibility as an internet movie critic by recommending Rob Cohen's "Stealth," a in-the-near-future action flick that managed to hold my interest half way through despite atrocious dialogue, and before it descended into complete plot absurdity.

When 400 of the Navy's top pilots apply for a top-secret "cutting edge" program, you'd think the three chosen to fly the three Talons -- the most advanced fighter jets on the market -- would be something to write home about. Not the impression I got.

Our heroes are Top Gun leftovers: Suave White Guy (Josh Lucas), Funny Black Guy (Jamie Foxx) and Really Hot Chick (Jessica Biel). They work great as a team but their routine gets shuffled a bit when Captain Cummings (Sam Shepard) introduces them to their fourth wingman, UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle), a computer that Suave White Guy refuses to acknowledge with the pronoun "he" until the day it "gets out of the cockpit and takes a piss."

But UCAV is pretty nifty; able to evolve, invent new languages, and download every sing song off the Internet. My that's a lot of gigs being used up on government hardware...and a whole lot of lawsuits from the RIAA. That he even has my friend Admiral Conquistador's techno collection on his playlist is mighty impressive.

The ace pilots are uncomfortable with UCAV, later dubbed Tin Man during a test mission, flying with them in formation. Maybe it has something to do with its ominous droning voice HAL 9000 might have influenced. Or maybe because the thing never obeys any orders and goes rogue when struck by lightning. You heard correctly, a lightning strike turns the blue plane red - making this the second film of the summer after Fantastic Four in which the plot is drastically affected by a storm.

I mentioned earlier that our three heroes don't come off as the best pilots the Navy should have to offer, precisely because they keeping doing two peculiar things before every mission. And to be sure, there are a lot of missions. When it's time to drop the bomb to stop terrorists from "eminently" striking the United States, Really Hot Chick does a damage assessment and calculates the expected number of casualties. "Farmers!" she screams from the cockpit. "Innocent farmers!"

So terrorists are about to destroy the Untied States and Really Hot Chick is worried about 500 farmers? (Cut to Armageddon-style scene of poor ethnic people in their villages waiting to be obliterated before the strike.)

Good thing these weren't the pilots who were asked to drop the bomb over Hiroshima. "How many expected casualties again, captain?" "Uh, yeah, about that - just do your damn mission!"

I didn't think pilots had the option to weigh pros and cons before carrying out orders - which brings me to my second gripe with our pilots: they always refuse to execute orders. Since when do pilots have the ability to tell their superior officer to go shove it and still get to fly another day?

Apparently this kind of subordination also gets under the skin of Tin Man, who soon starts disobeying them himself and begins selecting civilian targets for destruction. This doesn't really bother Captain Cummings too much because he's more interested in his investment nobody (correctly) thought would work than saving innocent civilians and pilots.

The one good thing about the movie is that Really Hot Chick played by Jessica Biel is really hot. When they're not questioning orders and estimating casualties while on missions to stop nuclear attacks, the pilots are in Thailand for much needed R&R. Funny Black Guy hooks up with a beautiful Thai girl and Suave Hot Guy along with Really Hot Chick photograph each other under a waterfall. Yummy.

And best of all, Really Hot Chick knows she's hot and flaunts her stuff on the carrier in front of all the male officers crammed together aboard the Abraham Lincoln. That none of them have earned sexual harassment complaints is to be commended.

Unlike the normal cadets, Really Hot Chick does her laundry in her own cabin, creating a hazard for Suave White Guy when he bumps into her bra on the way out hanging from a clothesline. "Pardon my C-cup," she tells him; a line from Jessica Biel's mouth that is only bested by the last sentence in the film, "Just tell me you love me, you pussy."

The special effects are pretty neat and reminded me of the spectacular opening of "Behind Enemy Lines," although there's less thrill here because the jets are fake computer creations, whereas "Behind Enemy Lines" demonstrated the beauty and true ability of the Navy's F/A-18 Hornet, a long tested plane that only makes a brief cameo in "Stealth."

During one of the missions a surprise tragedy forever changes the mood of the film - taking it to where movies like this are never supposed to go. The last straw is broken at the climax when Really Hot Chick must cross the DMZ on foot while taking out the entire North Korean army. Meanwhile, Suave White Guy is fighting bad guys at what is supposed to be a friendly American base in Alaska and must coordinate a rescue mission - once again - against orders from command.

"I just don't think war should become a video game," Suave White Guy observes in a debate over the necessity of fighter jets controlled by computers. But "Stealth" is like a videogame. And that's not a bad thing considering there are some truly jaw-dropping sequences - like the one where Really Hot Chick falls from her exploding aircraft - but the film's weak screenplay and ridiculous climax puts a damper on what could have been a lot of fun...the kind of fun Suave White Guy had when he bumped into Jessica Biel's C-cup.

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