The Warner Bros. rep was calling to warn me.
Even though I had been invited to an advance screening of “Steel” - Shaquille O’Neal’s new movie based on the metal-clad DC Comics hero - I was now being officially un-invited. If I were to show up at the theater at the appointed time, I would be stopped at the door.
Not that I took this personally. The studio’s flack promptly informed me that movie critics throughout North America were being similarly barred from “Steel.”
He didn’t say why, exactly, but I could guess. When a studio has confidence in a movie, the studio usually isn’t shy about letting critics see it in time to write a review for opening day.
That is today, by the way. And to cut to the chase, I did manage to see the film.
I won’t reveal precisely how I accomplished that, but back in my days at the Film Critics Academy, I minored in sneaking into theaters.
But having made it into “Steel,” I almost wish I had been barred at the door. This mind-numbingly amateurish action flick is one of the worst motion pictures I have seen since … well, when did Shaq’s “Kazaam” come out anyway?
Having gone POOF! as a genie in that film, Shaq charges back as a costumed crimefighter with the Superman emblem and the words “Man of Steel” tattooed on his arm.
On the plus side, Shaq does have a sweet, easy presence, and his diction has improved slightly since “Kazaam.” But the hoopster is even less convincing in a comic-book context than Arnold Schwarzenegger was in “Batman & Robin.” The character’s name is Steel, and, during the movie’s tense moments, Shaq displays all the emotional range of a girder.
xxxx “Steel” Location: Spokane Valley 12, North Division and Showboat cinemas Credits: Written and directed by Kenneth Johnson, starring Shaquille O’Neal, Annabeth Gish, Richard Roundtree and Judd Nelson Rating: PG-13