Mr. Movie

No 'Miracle at St. Anna'

What the hell happened Spike Lee?

Where did the brilliant director with the fresh, edgy and inventive ideas go?

Lee was a presence, cooler-than-cool with a bad-assed aura. In the world creative, Lee was a force of nature.

Key word: was.

These questions are prompted by Miracle at St. Anna. It not only contains a bunch of illogical loose ends and incomplete plot lines, but the movie also ends with so much saccharine that you’ll leave the theater on a head-scratching can this really be Spike Lee sugar high.

Has he been hanging out with Steven Spielberg? This Spike Lee is completely unrecognizable.

Parts of Miracle look like the Lee of old. The story begins with tasty clues about the events behind a murder and the discovery of an ancient artifact thought lost forever during World War II.

Via flashback you meet a squad of African-American soldiers doing their part to free Italy at the end of the war. Races were separated for totally stupid reasons in those days--a dig that Lee unnecessarily shoves in your face a dozen times.

With the soldiers is the artifact that one of them thinks has mystical powers. The same soldier picks up a young boy with an inexplicable connection to God.

Miracle at St. Anna is based on James McBride’s novel, and the author does his own screenplay. Books let you develop tasty back stories that add weight and depth to a plot. A movie script is a whole other animal.

Take your pick. Miracle at St. Anna clocks in at an awkward 2 hours and 40 minutes. It’s either not long enough to fill the holes in McBride’s script or it’s too long and the unnecessary fill needs to be eliminated.

Don’t take this criticism wrong. Spike Lee hitting on six of eight cylinders is still a great storyteller. From the solid performances to the original story there is much to like about Miracle at St. Anna.

With a better screenplay, Lee’s film is a guaranteed award-winner.

As things sit Miracle will need a miracle of a different kind to get to that level.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars

Rated R for violence, language, mature themes, nudity, sex. It opens today at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself