The Cave Movie Review

When I as a kid, there was no better place in Denver than Celebrity's Sports Center. I was not an athletic adolescent -- I spent more time reading books in my bedroom than I did tossing around the pigskin or chasing skirt -- but luckily for me Celebrity's Sports Center wasn't that type of "sports" place. It was a bowling alley/arcade/indoor water slide extravaganza where even the most geeky, awkward child could feel as though he or she was a star. What attracted me most to Celebrity's was the waterslides. There were three: the Dolphin, the Shark, and the Barracuda. Despite its often being referred to as the "baby" slide, or the "slow" one, I most enjoyed the Dolphin. Not because I was a lily-livered wuss, but because it was the one slide with rocky overhangs and waterfalls. For the two minutes that you drafted down the Dolphin you passed through a veritable equatorial jungle, replete with cascades, overhanging foliage and steep cliff faces -- all fake, of course.) And being in that slide, spiraling down to the warm pool, I often imagined myself an explorer making his way to some subterranean kingdom inhabited by monstrous creatures and lovely damsels in distress. (They tore Celebrity's down in the late '90s to make way for a Home Depot. Have people no respect?)

Watching The Cave I had that same feeling. The movie is like a multi-million dollar recreation of my boyhood fantasies on the Dolphin. And despite the many lapses in logic, the ridiculous plot twists, and the sketchy characterizations, I found myself giddy while watching The Cave.

The plot is as old as time itself (or so it seems these days), a bunch of people wind up somewhere where they don't belong and start getting eaten by something bigger and badder than they are. It's a hoary design, which has been done almost yearly since Scott's Alien. The Cave takes six spelunkers, led by two brothers (Cole Hauser and Eddie Cibrian), tosses in a hot Romanian babe, a bad-ass black dude, and some comic relief, and chucks them all into an unexplored cavern miles below the surface. Along the way we get mutant white moles with big teeth, some mutant white eels with big teeth, and some mutant white flying monstrosities with not only big teeth but also really long, prehensile claws.

Director Bruce Hunt, who sharpened his own teeth as a second unit director on blockbusters like Dark City and The Matrix, knows how to generate claustrophobic tension and his incorporation of real underwater cave photography is superb. The script by Michael Steinberg and Tegan West is ludicrous to the extreme, and goes way overboard with pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo that hobbles the story, but at least Hunt knows well enough to move the film around and not let it fester in these low points of absurdity.

The Cave is first and foremost a monster movie, and the monsters are a decent lot, well-made and well shot. They are odd conglomerations of every monster that's drooled across the big screen since the '70s. And the cave setting is distinctive (though the film geek in me must mention Ciro Ippolito's Alien 2, an Italian rip-off of Alien set in a cave). The cast is competent, and the cinematography by Ross emery is at times inspired.

The Cave is a monster movie; you can't walk in expecting American Beauty self-reflection or Star Wars grand opera. But if you enjoy watching flying, bloodthirsty monsters chase people around dark places, you'll get a kick from the film. It's a thrill ride. Watching it, I felt like a 10 year old kid again, swooping my way down the Dolphin towards unknowable depths.

Beware of albino rocks!


The Cave Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG-13, 2005


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