The Smokers and the survivors, in spite of living in an ocean that could clean them, are comically and inexplicably filthy.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"Waterworld" is definitely a bad hair movie. Dennis Hopper has none, Kevin Costner's is thinning, and Hopper's assistant thug looks as if his has been growing for decades. In the absence of humor, drama, or character chemistry, you notice things like that.

This movie just can't make up its mind. Should it be a spiritual sea epic, or should it be this year's violent action movie? The primal man/woman/child unit is pitted against the sea in search of any spot of dry land than might have survived the melting of the polar icecaps. The Mariner (Costner), Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn), and Enola (Tina Majorino), a little girl with a cryptic map to dry land tattooed on her back, glisten with sweat and grow progressively weaker from sun and salt in pale imitation of all lifeboat movies.

Just as we are pondering the seriousness of the problem, a band of the silliest villains you ever saw streaks over the horizon on Jet Skis. Armed with grisly weapons fashioned from the leftovers of civilization, the Smokers are chasing the mariner, "the gentleman guppy," whose gills are hidden mercifully behind his ears.

Dennis Hopper is here to reprise his bad guy personality as the Deacon, the Mariner's villainous rival. If there is water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink (converted urine serves), it doesn't bother the Deacon, who has an endless supply of scotch, which he swills while haranguing the world's survivors who are clustered on the rusting hull of the infamous Exxon Valdez, which serves as their floating home.

The Smokers and the survivors, in spite of living in an ocean that could clean them, are comically and inexplicably filthy. Clad in clothes and accents that range from imagined Renaissance to Grunge, they seem to have passed through Krook's rag-and-bone shop on their way to a company outing by the ocean. It's a hodgepodge so ridiculous that even a good performance by the little girl and some spiffy photography of fireballs can't lift the leaden mass.

Standing topside in a three-cornered hat to address the cheering faithful. The Deacon, in a charitable interpretation, is a sly metaphor for the fundamentalist preachers who sermonize about family values while they drink, womanize, and indulge themselves in luxury bought with the contributions of their parishioners. In the uncharitable view, he's just a jerk.

Covering his gouged eye socket with a patch and sporting a cleaver as an artificial hand, Hopper tries mightily to invest his character with a wink from his remaining eye to tell us this movie is fun. But even he can't surmount the deadly dullness of Kevin Costner's vision.

If this is Costner's warning that we are ruining the planet, he delivers it with a mailed fist. This very earnest man has made a movie without the redeeming qualities of romance, drama, or humor. Is it possible that he mistakes seriousness for dignity? This is a lifeless movie. And don't even ask where the money went.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 495
Studio : Universal
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 2h15m

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