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Into the Blue

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More than an hour of “Into the Blue” has passed before we encounter anything approximating a conflict or antagonist. Those first 60 minutes are spent instead on visions of tan, lithe young people frolicking in the sea and making out on boats, with nothing stopping them from getting what they want. You could argue, very convincingly, that such diversions are the real point of the movie, and that the plot, when it does show up, is the real distraction. But I maintain that 60 minutes of pretty people swimming gets boring after, say, a half-hour.

But my, Jessica Alba and Paul Walker sure are attractive, aren’t they! That is the movie’s central theme, and it’s hard to deny it. They are clad in bathing suits for roughly 80 percent of the film, and the camera lingers lovingly as their taut bodies glide through the crystal waters of the Caribbean. (There is some striking underwater photography in there, too.) Regardless of whose body you fancy more, there is plenty to enjoy. You can also marvel about the fact that both characters can apparently hold their breath for several minutes at a time!

The chief benefit of having them underwater so much is that they can’t talk. When they’re on the surface, they speak, and they reveal remarkable shallowness (no thanks to Matt Johnson’s witless screenplay, either). Walker talks, as he does in every film (and I assume in real life), with that lazy surfer-dude dialect, coming off like the tool he most assuredly is. And Alba — sweet, lovely Alba, so soft of face and bland of personality, so unable to convince me that she is an expert in marine life the way she pretends to be in this movie. And then Scott Caan shows up! The one man who might give Paul Walker any competition in his bid for Tooliest Actor, and here he is!

The three of them (along with Ashley Scott as Caan’s coke-whore girlfriend) are in the Bahamas, where Walker and Alba live and play. Walker is obsessed with finding the sunken treasure that sometimes becomes accessible after a heavy storm or a hurricane, and while snorkeling one day, the foursome finds a wrecked airplane full of cocaine. What to do? Nothing, of course. We’re not drug dealers. We’ll keep searching in the vicinity for legitimate booty, and we’ll tell the authorities about the sunken narcotics once we’ve secured our claim on whatever’s nearby.

Well, there are complications, but as I said, they don’t arise until we’re halfway through the film (which was directed by John Stockwell, which explains why it’s so much like 2002’s “Blue Crush,” because he directed that one, too). When the story really does emerge — involving drug lords and double-crosses and such — it’s goofy enough to be big, stupid fun. (Why this film is being released at the end of September instead of mid-July is beyond me.) There is too much wading and water-treading prior to that, though, and it’s frustrating to realize how much more enjoyable the film would have been if they’d taken 20 minutes out of the first hour.

Note: I’ve mentioned before that sometimes when a movie gets really boring, I start to wish that a shark would eat one of the characters, just for some diversion. Well, “Into the Blue” marks the first time that my wish has ever come true!!

C- (1 hr., 50 min.; PG-13, some mild profanity, one F-word, some violence, a little partial nudity.)

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