Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life Movie Review

Having apparently learned nothing from the first "Tomb Raider" movie, in this sequel, subtitled "The Cradle of Life," videogame-spawned pneumatic archeologist/adventuress Lara Croft makes another stupid, fundamental mistake with another dangerous antediluvian object that could result in the end of the world as we know it.

In the 2001 movie, two halves of an ancient-treasure time machine were being sought by leathery bad guys with evil ambitions. Croft (Angelina Jolie) gets her hands on one half in the third reel, and if she'd just had the common sense to destroy it, the threat -- and the movie -- would have been over in less than an hour.

This time around she recovers a golden orb that projects a holographic map to the hiding place of Pandora's Box -- yes, the one in the Greek myth that released all pain, suffering and evil into the world -- from a run-of-the-mill billionaire-scientist villain (Ciaran Hinds) who plans to create an unstoppable biological weapon using the box's contents and auction it off to the highest-bidding rogue state or terrorist. (Nevermind that the terrorists plan to create a viral apocalypse that will destroy civilization, thus rendering all his money worthless.)

So does Croft try to obliterate, bury or sink the orb? Nope. She follows the map, leading Hinds and his ubiquitous thugs straight to the very object she's supposedly trying to protect.

Meanwhile, because Jolie demanded some actual acting to do as a condition of appearing in this sequel, her heroine is reunited with -- and conflicted about -- Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler), her double-crossing mercenary of an old flame. She busts him out of a Ukrainian prison to help her track down the band of Chinese antiquity buglers who almost killed her in the opening scene, when they followed her expedition to an underwater ruin and stole the orb in the first place. Smarmy Butler and sultry-cool Jolie have so little chemistry that even when they start making out, it's hard to believe that she likes him at all. But that's the least of this movie's problems.

"Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life" is burdened by dull, repetitive stunts (Lara parachutes off a skyscraper in some kind of flying squirrel suit! Lara parachutes into a moving Jeep in Africa without the suit!). Its overcooked action scenes lack energy or originality (gymnastic Lara runs over the top of a moving car and uses a flag pole to flip onto a balcony -- yawn!). The fights are so simplistically choreographed that you might find yourself hoping someone will just fire a gun and get them over with -- and then when the gunfire starts, the scenes are so busy with hack-job editing it's hard to say who's shooting at whom.

Director Jan De Bont ("Speed," "Speed 2" and "Twister") barely inspires enough adrenaline-flick flash to hold anyone's interest -- and it doesn't help that he seems overly enamored of slow motion and unnecessary satellite-to-ground-level zoom shots.

Does Jolie look dead sexy in skimpy outfits? I suppose so, if she's your type. Does she continue to flesh-out and lend credibility to the feisty, devil-may-care video vixen character of Lara Croft? Yes, in fact, she does. Does the movie look cool? Well, the underwater temple where the Orb is found is an impressive set. Is "The Cradle of Life" any better than the first flaccid "Tomb Raider" picture? Just barely. But is any of this worth the price of admission? Hardly.


Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, WIDE: Friday, July 25, 2003


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