Tom Cruise Forgoes Couch Tantrums, Gets 'Knight'ed

Photo: 'I got a trig midterm tomorrow and I'm being chased by Guido the Killer Pimp!'  Cruise and Diaz make for this summer's blockbuster dream team in 'Knight and Day.'
'I got a trig midterm tomorrow and I'm being chased by Guido the Killer Pimp!' Cruise and Diaz make for this summer's blockbuster dream team in 'Knight and Day.'

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You probably don't need to be reminded, but it's summertime in California, which means, among other things, sunshine, sunburns and sweat, crowded swimming pools, mosquitoes, camping trips, cherries, watermelons and movies. Movies with big budgets and big stars. Movies guaranteed to succeed sequels and spin-offs and other "sure things." "Knight and Day," which pairs Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise, appears to be one of these. Coming on the heels of a big-time marketing campaign (which included weird clips of Cruise and Diaz kicking around a soccer ball popping up on some sports websites), "Knight and Day" seems perfectly constructed to capitalize on the American tradition that is the summer blockbuster.

"Jaws" this is not, but "Knight" has enough action scenes to draw in the more bloodthirsty crowds, and plenty of tender looks for the more rom-com inclined. Cruise, who - surprise, surprise - plays the action hero, is on the run with guns from the very beginning.

Some sort of spy or secret agent (specificity is not this film's strong suit), Roy Miller (Cruise) abandons protocol and takes it upon himself to protect a very important piece of cutting-edge technology - a battery whose energy never expires - and its inventor, a teenager named Simon (played by Paul Dano, sporting a droopy beard as if he's been cast in a Rasputin biopic).

As the story begins, Miller appears to have already been chased extensively by a mix of mobsters and crooked FBI agents (including a surprisingly forgettable Peter Sarsgaard) who desperately desire the battery and its maker. Unfortunately for ordinary citizen June Havens (Diaz), befriending the charming Miller in the airport places her instantly on the hit list. Fortunately for June havens, Mr. Miller is a total hottie.

As advertised, exhaustively, the story seems mostly like a vehicle for watching the "sparks fly" between two of the biggest movie stars of the noughts. The growing bond between Cruise and Diaz is not so much a romance as a case of Stockholm Syndrome. From the moment they meet, bumping into each other (not so accidentally, we find out) in the airport, it's Cruise leading the way. He goes as far as kidnapping and drugging his helpless blonde co-star (ostensibly to more easily protect her from the same murderous villains that are pursuing him) in order to keep the situation under control, or rather, under his control. Diaz, never one for subtlety, exhibits her growing affection by keeping her ever-widening puppy dog eyes riveted on Cruise as he repels wave after wave of hapless henchmen.

Diaz easily applies her ditzy persona to the role of the damsel in distress, though she manages to discharge a round here and there. In more than one instance, June's blunders end up saving their lives. Though Miller is quick and generous with his praise, Diaz's character seems like a throwback to the days when female stars were meek, overly affectionate and prone to fainting.

"Knight " meets all the right checkpoints for a summer hit: shaky-cam action sequences, stops in cosmopolitan European capitals, a number of cute recurring in-jokes between the two co-stars and a really thin plot. We're talking Saran Wrap-thin, and just as transparent.

Predictability aside, what keeps "Knight and Day" firmly rooted in the realm of popcorn-worthy, mindless entertainment, is that it is so deliberately lacking in roots; the film feels superficial and groundless.

While Cruise and Diaz move smoothly through Europe, one step ahead of their shadowy foes, all we see of each city is a pretty nighttime skyline - oh, and in Sevilla, running with the bulls. Cruise and Diaz have absolutely zero in the backstory department, and the score - pleasantly paced and French-tinged in the "Up in the Air"-like opening scenes - seems misplaced. Director James Mangold, who's made some good films, among them "Identity" and "Girl, Interrupted," is content to float along on the strength of two charming and very toothy smiles, wary of dipping more than a toe into any subject that might distract us from his instantly bankable co-stars.

Am I expecting too much from a summer action-adventure/blockbuster/thriller/romance/spy flick? Yes, probably. After all, "Knight and Day" is the kind of movie from which you get exactly what you expect. For some people, myself included, a reasonable follow-up to this statement is to ask, "So then what's the point of seeing the movie?" But I feel confident in saying that a lot people are going to see this movie, and the majority of them are probably going to walk out of the theater more or less satisfied with the two hours and 10 dollars they spent on it. When you get what you asked for, there seems no reason to complain.


Forward some pictures of your toothiest smile to Nick at [email protected]

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