Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

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The first “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” film, you’ll recall, was a dull, tedious affair. It was set up like a video game, to its detriment: heroine faces conflict, heroine defeats enemy, heroine moves onto next conflict. No suspense, no climax, no fun.

Despite having a new director and new screenwriters, the sequel, “The Cradle of Life,” is no better. It repeats the same mistakes of the first film and compounds them with the cardinal sin of taking itself too seriously.

Perhaps Angelina Jolie is the problem. In what I assume is an attempt to appear sultry, she looks passionless and bored most of the time, her one facial expression mired somewhere between sexy and stoned. Her delivery is flat, another failed attempt at suaveness. She’s a perfect mirror for the film.

The plot is … oh, the plot. I don’t know if I’m up to it, but I’ll try. It seems Pandora’s Box is a real artifact, not a myth, and if it’s opened, it will unleash deadly disease. A bad guy named Reiss (Ciaran Hinds), who deals in bio-terror, wants to get it and sell it as a weapon to terrorists. Lara Croft (Jolie), noted archeologist and heroine, is called upon by the British government to find the box first, stop Reiss, and so on and so forth.

To do this, Lara insists she needs the help of Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler), now in prison for treason but a heck of a guy when it comes to this sort of thing. (One wonders what previous excursions would be similar enough to the current dilemma to make Terry’s name spring to mind first.) Oh, and he’s her ex-boyfriend, too. So they spring him from lock-up, and the two go off to China, then Hong Kong, then a bunch of other places, making wan attempts at sexual tension along the way.

Director Jan de Bont (“Twister,” “Speed”) demonstrates a surprising ineptitude, especially when it comes to pacing. None of the various sequences of fighting or escaping seem any more dire than any others. They could be re-edited and shown in a different order and it wouldn’t change the story at all. There is no sense of building to a climax; the stakes never seem to get raised.

The thought of seeing Angelina Jolie in a tight T-shirt may be reason (reasons?) enough to see the film, but I doubt it. Find a picture of her on the Internet and stare at it for a couple hours. You’ll find more amusement that way than you would watching the movie.

D+ (1 hr., 57 min.; PG-13, a little mild profanity, a little sexuality, a lot of action-related violence.)

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