Movie News & Reviews

'The Crazies' slowly loses intensity

New subgenre I'll be looking out for: movies — especially remakes — thattotally ignore the fundamental question of their premise.

To put that in non-jerk terms, say you've got a movie abouthyperintelligent dinosaurs trying to alter the course of an incomingmeteor by making all the pterodactyls fly up and smash themselves intoit, but you never touch the topic of sacrificing the few for the needsof the many. Without that insight, you'll just be like every othercataclysmic space-dinosaur flick out there!

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

If you've got the chance to go for a little bit more, I say you've gotto take your shot. That's my confusion for something like the remakeof The Crazies, a movie that does its damnedest to duck thequestion of how you tell the difference between crazy-person violenceand "normal" violence, but somehow ends up halfway decent anyway.

When an armed man strolls onto a baseball field and refuses to drophis gun, small-town sheriff Timothy Olyphant has no choice but toshoot him. Olyphant's certain the man was drunk, but his autopsy comesback clean.

As others go crazy, Olyphant tracks the source of their madness to amilitary plane crashed in the town's water supply, but it's too late.The army quarantines the whole town, separating Olyphant from wifeRadha Mitchell — who may be infected herself.

And that's just for starters, really. Most infection/zombie-ish moviestake their sweet time chronicling the breakdown of whatever townthey're set in, largely because the heroes stubbornly ignore all thewarning signs around them. Their inner monologues must sound somethinglike "Hey, that guy was kind of crazy. Dum de dum...whoa now,that guy was really nuts. Wonder if there's anyconnection? Nah! Now let's all go for a dip in the crowded publicpool. Hey, why is everybody suddenly acting all crazy?"

Not so with The Crazies. By the time any other infection movieis getting around to its first victim, Olyphant's whole town is inflames. Scott Kosar and Ray Wright's script hops from disaster todisaster with the urgency of a couple dudes who really, really want tosee their characters die.

There's no real downtime here, unless you consider hiding out in abarn while slaughter-happy soldiers ferret you out to be a relaxingreprieve from fighting off pitchfork-wielding madmen.

This leads to a lot of tension, and director Breck Eisner keeps eachindividual scene tight, but after a while The Crazies starts tosag. Olyphant's pretty much got the whole mystery figured out abouthalfway in. After that, it becomes a wandering marathon of running,hiding, running, and more hiding. Nobody's got much of a plan, andMitchell's underwritten explanation of the virus might as well be"There's these teeny-tiny bugs, see, and if they get inside you, theycan make you sick!"

But who cares what she has to say. This isn't about reality, it'sabout people surviving events so deadly they'd kill a cockroach in +5plate mail.

This is somewhat more vitriolic than I mean to be. The Craziesgets off to a strong start, and even after it loses its focus, it keptme sunk down in my seat because I knew it was going to make mejump and then everyone behind me would think I was a lace-wearingsissy. Too bad it gets a little less interesting about every 10minutes it goes on.

Grade: B-