Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life

on July 25, 2003 by Michael Tunison
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The nice thing about video games is that no matter how horribly you fail, you just hit a button and the whole thing starts over again. Applying the same principle to filmmaking, the folks behind the dreadful 2001 game adaptation "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" are back for another try. With veteran action director Jan De Bont ("Speed") at the controls this time around, "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider--The Cradle of Life" is at least a bit more comprehensible than its predecessor--say, a second-rate Indiana Jones rip-off instead of a third-rate Indiana Jones rip-off--though it would be overly charitable to say this series has made it to the next level.

An unexpected archeological discovery in Greece puts the fabulously wealthy, multi-skilled Lady Laura Croft (Angelina Jolie) on the trail of a relic believed to be none other than the troublesome Pandora's Box of Greek myth, which legend says can be found at the place where human existence began, "The Cradle of Life." Of course, this dangerous artifact is also sought by the forces of evil, in particular a germ warfare expert (Ciaran Hinds from "Road to Perdition") with dubious plans for using it as a weapon. Will Lara be able to prevent the bad guys from bringing untold suffering raining down on the human race, all the while setting new standards in movie heroine fashion with her chic, location-specific adventuring outfits?

As in the first installment, "Cradle's" strongest element is the formidable Jolie, who continues to be convincing in the role long after the movie has collapsed under the weight of its own silliness. De Bont gives the star a few respectable action moments in which to shine, but the overall story--especially a romantic thread featuring a bad-boy mercenary beau of Lara's ("Reign of Fire's" Gerard Butler)--refuses to generate any dramatic momentum whatsoever. The franchise has the perfect Lara--if only they could figure out how to make us care about her. Starring Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Ciaran Hinds, Christopher Barrie, Noah Taylor, Djimon Hounsou and Til Schweiger. Directed by Jan De Bont. Written by Dean Georgaris. Produced by Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin. A Paramount release. Action. Rated PG-13 for action violence and some sensuality. Running time: 117 min.

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