by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino
Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
Rob: I can’t believe you were even able to do it. What is this movie?
Adam: This was my second viewing of Sahara. I saw it during its theatrical run at a concert venue that did “Brew & View” screenings of second-run movies on dates they didn’t have concerts. I remembered being miserable watching the film because I was seated at a circular table, in a stiff chair, facing the screen at an angle. When you suggested watching Sahara for the purposes of this column, I was up for it because I thought my experience watching the movie probably influenced my reaction to it. It turns out I just don’t like Sahara. I found this movie to be really boring to the point where I got relief when it went to commercials as I watched it with ads on IMDB TV. The actors do what they can. I think Matthew McConaughey is quite good as the globe-trotting treasure hunter lead and Sahara could have been a success if the movie had a more interesting story. However, the movie was a total drag. When you stack your plot with things like civil wars, dictators, the WHO, NUMA, toxins, solar detoxification plants, contamination and toxic waste you’re introducing a lot of hurdles to your movie being fun. Also, for an action-adventure movie, Sahara is pretty light on set pieces, especially in the first half which consists mostly of going to several countries for exposition dump after exposition dump.
What did you think of Sahara, Rob?The Mummy. On paper, it’s got laughs, thrills, romance, and excitement. Ingredients this good couldn’t possibly taste bad, right? Right! They taste...like nothing. This movie is blah. It’s medium. It’s a 40 degree day. It’s too much of an okay thing. There isn’t one particular element that I can point to as being objectively bad, and yet none of the good elements are given any room to make an impression. It’s honestly a fascinating example of why those alchemical X factors are so important when making a successful film. It’s not that McConaughey, Zahn, and Cruz are bad — it’s that none of them is Harrison Ford. It’s not that the various plotlines aren’t interesting — it’s that using them all at once makes it feel like they’re trying to squeeze an entire trilogy’s worth of adventures into one film. It’s not that any of the classic rock needle drops are bad songs — it’s that using all of them dilutes the impact of each one.
How would I fix it? I honestly don’t know. Maybe the problem is that McConaughey’s character’s name is Dirk Pitt. I’d probably start the rewrite there.
Adam: The name doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that we don’t know anything about Dirk Pitt as a person. We know what his job is and then McConaughey’s persona is supposed to do the rest of the work. He’s Adventure Man. He’s not a character yet. It’s weird that Sahara was supposed to launch a franchise of Dirk Pitt adventures (the comparison made on Wikipedia is this was supposed to be a James Bond type series), but then give us nothing to really hang onto.
I’m trying to think of some positives and all I can come up with is Steve Zahn. I liked that he was a capable backup to McConaughey and not a bumbling idiot. He’s definitely intended as comic relief first but I appreciated that he’s smart, resourceful, and brave. I felt bad for Penelope Cruz because the movie gives her very little to do. She’s meant to be “the girl” that’s there for McConaughey to save and that’s about it. It’s a bummer.
I also liked Steve Zahn (because I’m a human being with a soul), and I kept thinking just how remarkably in the pocket he was for this run during the late ‘90s-early ‘00s. He found his niche, did it effortlessly for six or seven years to pay the bills, and snuck in a few interesting dramatic roles along the way. Remember Saving Silverman? I watched that on Comedy Central almost every day in high school. Is that movie good? I wonder if that movie is good.
Adam: I don’t remember, but now I want to rewatch Saving Silverman. Speaking of Jack Black movies, I rewatched Orange County a couple of years ago and was like “This movie’s amazing” (it’s probably not). All I remember about Saving Silverman is Amanda Peet. Why didn’t she become a giant movie star?
Anyway. Do we have anything else to really say about Sahara?
Adam: Oh no. We don’t.
Rob: Do...do we just stop, then? Is this one over?
Adam: Sorry, did you say something? I already put my jacket on and was walking out the door. We’ll be back next week with a new idea (TBD!!!) because baseball is in its offseason, so our baseball series is also on hiatus. Until next time…
Rob: These seats are reserved.