If the filmmakers behind Sahara were hoping to instill in their audiences the same sensations - the blurred vision, the deadening thirst and above all, the fear of never escaping -- that one might experience while trapped in the desert, they've succeeded. Based on the novel by Clive Cussler, Sahara's incoherent plot involves treasure hunters in search of Confederate gold, sexy World Health Organization doctors, evil West African despots, plague, quasi-European bad guys, toxic dumps and oh yeah, exploding vehicles.
At just over two hours, Sahara actually feels longer than its stated run time. From the outset, it's clear that this is supposed to be a good-natured throwback to those halcyon days when men were men, boats came stock with Lynyrd Skynyrd on the speakers and lines like "You throw like a girl" could get you laid. I'm talking about the '70s, ladies and gentlemen, and Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConnaughey) is most definitely a man of that time. In fact, the only thing keeping this movie in the present day and not back in a more favorably chauvinistic era is the fact that in one scene, the characters buy used CDs in a village market.
As action heroes go, Dirk is as forgettable as they come. Lacking any human frailties -- for instance, Indiana Jones' fear of snakes or Luke Skywalker's immaturity -- McConnaughey's character is wholly uninteresting. He swaggers around the movie, shirt off, like it's his own private Jose Cuervo/football/Brut aftershave commercial. His cohorts aren't much better - Penelope Cruz makes lots of Serious Doctor pouty faces as she tries to figure out what is "polluhhting the reeeever" and Steve Zahn does what he can with the sidekick role but is eventually overcome by his character's persistent "I lost my hat" muggings.
The guy next to me (not my date) loved the movie. He kept slapping his knee and laughing uproariously, especially when the characters find a wrecked airplane in the desert and resurrect it to the tune of "Magic Carpet Ride." But I was bored. It could have something to do with enduring a veritable parade of every adventure movie clich & eacute; imaginable (including a boat that takes more bullets than Bonnie and Clyde, yet manages to keep on running). It could be the implausibility of people being lost in the desert for days and not needing either water or sunscreen (perhaps both ample refreshment and adequate sun protection were provided for everyone by McConnaughey's potent musk). At a certain point, however, my date and I grew tired even of whispering jokes and counting the plentiful plot holes. In the end, we simply huddled in our seats, miserably awaiting the credits.
Publication date: 04/14/05