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‘The Spirit’ offers plenty of eye candy, nothing more

Fri., Dec. 26, 2008

How do you critique acting that’s willfully bad, a story that’s crazy on purpose, dialogue that sets out to be stilted and clichéd?

You say this: “The Spirit” looks great but there’s not much else there.

Based on comic genius Will Eisner’s creation, “The Spirit” looks similar to “Sin City,” blending live action and comic effects in a dark-and-twisted way – like a comic book come to life.

That’s no surprise, given that “Spirit” director (and famous comic creator) Frank Miller co-directed “Sin City” along with Robert Rodriguez.

He could have used Rodriguez here, too. While the acting in “Sin City” was campy and the story over the top, it worked in the context of the film. What we’re left with here is Gabriel Macht trying to carry a superhero movie and proving not up to the task.

Macht plays Denny Colt. At least that used to be his name. A former policeman, now he’s known simply as the Spirit, a masked man who runs around Central City cleaning up the cops’ messes. For reasons that are eventually revealed, he can’t seem to be killed (despite some gruesome attempts).

Central City is being menaced by the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), a psychopathic scientist whose not-quite-successful creation of dim-witted henchmen is the best thing about the movie. The Octopus is aided by Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson), a grad student getting the most out of an unorthodox internship.

The Spirit, when he’s not fighting crime and bad guys, loves his doctor, Ellen (Sarah Paulson). It’s a handy relationship, because while he can’t be killed, he can be wounded and often is.

But he’s also troubled by the return of his first love, Sand Saref (Eva Mendes); a childhood tragedy left her bitter and on the wrong side of the law. Everything is headed for a showdown of literally mythic proportions.

Finally, the film rests at Macht’s feet. He goes on about his love of “my city,” his devotion to it, and who knows? Maybe some other actor could have made it more interesting. We’ll never know.

For times and locations, see page 6.

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