'Battleship' goes overboard on big and dumb

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Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012 3:21 am

There's nothing wrong with big, dumb fun. "Battleship," however, goes overboard on big and dumb, and misses out on some of the potential fun.

Based as loosely as humanly possible on the classic strategy game of the same name, "Battleship" is not as thoroughly awful as it could have been. It is, though, as loud and nonsensical as you think it might be.

Taylor Kitsch ("John Carter") stars as Alex Hopper, the loose cannon brother of a decorated naval officer (Alexander Skarsgard). In an amusing setup, Alex gets himself in trouble with the law while trying to impress a pretty girl.

Fast-forward a few years, and the young screw-up has somehow become an officer himself, on a destroyer headed out for some international war games in the Pacific.

Unfortunately, a plan by scientists (it's always the fault of science) to contact potential life on another planet is about to backfire. The aliens who have been contacted send some warships crashing toward earth. Quickly they set up a force field around Hawaii — with just three destroyers on the inside — and the battle is on.

What, you don't remember the aliens in the original game? To be fair, "Battleship" not only uses the name and the Hasbro logo, but also manages to stick in a small stretch of strategic grid work that harkens back to the game. It also arms the aliens with peg-like missiles.

The movie has some chuckles — a few of them unintentional — but there are no real scares or drama, and there's plenty of truly awful dialogue. This isn't helped by the fact that the filmmakers decided they didn't even need to use actors.

Supermodel Brooklyn Decker shows the acting range of a supermodel as Alex's girlfriend, the daughter of the admiral (Liam Neeson, in an embarrassing paycheck role). Pop star Rihanna plays a tough petty officer. Real army vet and amputee Gregory D. Gadson has a good moment, but he's clearly not an actor either.

Kitsch himself still doesn't show the ability to carry a film; it may already be time to admit that he'll never be better than he was on the small screen in "Friday Night Lights."

It wouldn't have hurt if the film made a tiny modicum of sense. For instance, the evil aliens have a number of weird and blatant vulnerabilities, and though their plan seems to be world domination, they opt not to easily and immediately destroy all the naval forces because … they admire Kitsch's devil-may-care attitude?

"Battleship" doesn't even really shine in the areas where it should. The effects and the aliens don't have the wow factor of, say, "The Transformers" and merely seem derivative.

Peter Berg ("Friday Night Lights") is a good director, but his first foray into summer blockbusters is a dud. It might be a good recruiting film for the Navy, but it's not a good film to watch.

Rental recommendation: If they ever make a sequel to "Top Gun," I sure hope they throw in some aliens. Grade: B+

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