Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life Movie Review

What is it about archaeology that makes us want to go to the movies? Is it the magic of being able to breathe life into ancient legends, like the riddle of the Sphinx and the lost city of Atlantis? Is it the illusion of uncovering the secrets behind grand and mystical artifacts, like the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail? Or is it simply the white bodysuit that fits Angelina Jolie so tightly that you can't possibly avoid looking at her nipples?

If you chose the latter, you'll definitely want to arrive on time to see Tomb Raider sequel Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, for the first twenty minutes are packed with plenty to gawk at. There's Jolie -- er, Croft -- riding in on a jet ski wearing a black sports bra and soaking wet shorts. There's Croft climbing aboard a ship as seductively as possible while two deckhands watch greedily. There's Croft appearing on deck in the all-too-critical bodysuit, ready to dive into the water and fight a shark one-on-one. And there's even Croft doing some unnecessary splits in mid-air as she rolls her way toward the mysterious "orb" -- an object that soon becomes the focus of the movie due to the fact that it holds the map to the legendary Pandora's box.

Sadly, once you've seen this much of Cradle of Life, there are few reasons left to stick around. Soon after Croft's water sport antics, director Jan De Bont introduces us to the plot of the story -- and trust me, it is nothing short of predictable.

To summarize, the story's antagonist is Jonathan Reiss (Ciarán Hinds), your typical billionaire madman who always happens to be up to no good. For reasons that are never quite clear, Reiss can't wait to get his hands on Pandora's Box and unleash its latent evil upon the world, and so he hires the leader of a notorious Chinese gang to steal the aforementioned orb right out of Croft's hands. To get it back -- and thereby save the world -- Croft must enlist the services of her former lover Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler), who is not only serving out a prison sentence at the moment, but is also the only person on the planet who can take Croft to the gang hideout. Together, the power-packed duo go on a quest for the orb that takes them across too many continents, puts them in touch with too many old friends, and throws them in the midst of too many uninspired moments of passion to elicit much more than a few snorts and eye rolls from the audience.

The end result is a movie that tries -- and fails -- to be much more than it really is. Perhaps if De Bont and screenwriter Dean Gregorias had simply focused on the one thing that teenage fans of the Lara Croft video game really wanted to see -- great action scenes involving their scantily clad heroine -- they might have had something. But as it has turned out, Cradle of Life is a movie that lets its own plot get in the way of its good parts. And what good is that?

Get De Bont's commentary on the new DVD, along with alternate scenes and the usual featurettes. Gerard Butler's screen test is also included along with a pair of music videos spawned from the film.

Wonder if she'll pop an unnecessary wheelie?


Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 2003


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