Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

The mere act of sitting at my computer typing out the idiotically long title of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life makes me despise it for eating up even more of my time.

In the same way Ruben’s voice is preferable to Clay’s, The Cradle of Life is better than the original Tomb Raider. For all the hoo-ha talk about Alexander the Great and Pandora’s Box, the only cool thing in the movie is a completely incidental insert of SpongeBob SquarePants.

For true masochists, this is yet another numbing helping of garishly fake sets playing host to blockheaded and boring action sequences. Not to mention the recycled plot thread of Lara finding a shiny orb, decoding its symbols and seeing some hologram map fly out of it. It literally looks as though they inserted the exact same scene from the first film.

Oh, there are a couple new elements this time — the worst romantic conflict this side of Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones and the hackneyed hand of director Jan de Bont, who really can stop providing evidence Speed was a total fluke any time, thanks.

As for Angelina Jolie, most guys with a heartbeat would watch the star in just about anything, but there are considerably cheaper ways to gawk at her for a couple hours. Plus, you wouldn’t have to put up with her ever-present glazed-over stare.

At least in the first film, Jolie had conviction in her ability to break someone’s face and look good doing it. Here, it looks like she can’t wait to get to the next “Billy Bob” tattoo removal appointment. Then again, how chipper would you be as an Academy Award-winning actress asked to film a scene riding a shark more computer-animated than the ones in Finding Nemo?

It’s one of many low-rent effects in this $95-million waste, the plot of which is essentially a retread of Mission: Impossible 2. With the help of old flame Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler, whose Scottish accent is freakin’ huge), Lara tries to protect Pandora’s Box from use as a weapon of mass destruction by Dr. Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds), a Nobel Prize-winner-turned-bio-terrorist bad guy.

In a merrier movie, that career change would be the source of at least one good joke — not to mention the fact Reiss hides his evil lab behind an under-construction façade at a shopping mall. Maybe it’s somewhere near Claire’s Boutique or Aeropostale.

But screenwriter Dean Georgaris and de Bont script and stage their action last seen being innovative in 1994 with deadly seriousness. Aside from a wicked pole vault onto helicopter skids, there are no pulse-quickening stunts. And the street that stunt is played out on looks about as real as that destroyed by King Kong on the Universal Studios ride. Also, a note to de Bont, who fawns over a skydiving scene for about two minutes — Charlie Sheen did it better about 10 years ago in Terminal Velocity, pal. That’s right, Charlie Sheen.

The finale to this whole mess plays out in The Cradle of Life, where monsters guard Pandora’s Box and eat people but are careful not to be in full view of the camera so as not to draw copyright infringement threats from Peter Jackson.

It’s hard to know what climactic element makes you want to walk out more — an awful computer-generated rip-off of Raiders of the Lost Ark or the conclusion meant to make us sad about the emotionally crippled life of a tomb raider. Grieve not for Lara Croft, but for your wallet.

An award-winning film critic and features reporter, Nick has professionally written or gabbed about movies for Illinois newspapers, national syndicates, Playboy, The Art Immortal, The Film Yap and Midwest radio stations. He once drummed in a Billy Joel cover band known as Silly Joel and freely presents his Letterboxd page to engage and mock if you wish:

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