I have a great fondness for movies that let me know right where I am just by naming their director. Robert Luketic may have been hard to nail down when he hit the scene with Legally Blonde, but after Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, and Monster-in-Law we knew where we were. Then came last year’s The Ugly Truth, and though it was met with critical disdain, I came to believe I was getting a sense for the real Luketic. Sprinkling in 21, I think I’ve got a good feel for every film he’ll ever do, and I probably mean something different than you might think.
Killers, Luketic’s recent effort that keeps Katherine Heigl, but adds in Ashton Kutcher, is a film destined to be called stupid in ways too numerous to mention, and I predict many of them will be fabulously inventive. The truth is, the film really is incredibly stupid, but there’s stupid and then there’s stupid, and once the film isn’t being remotely serious, you shouldn’t be either.
Rather than give away plot points which render the film immune to intellectual attack, I’ll simply point out a film that Luketic is conveniently remaking, Romancing the Stone. I won’t claim that Killers comes close to living up to that film, but they are vaguely in the same genre. Killers doesn’t have the chemistry, and the writing isn’t as funny, but they are equally stupid.
As I said, there’s stupid and then there’s stupid. Notice Luketic didn’t hang around for Legally Blonde 2.
In case we weren’t certain, Killers‘ opening credits let us know where we’re going, because while they hint at James Bond, there’s a certain Pink Panther quality to them as well. Witness the poster.
We meet Spencer (Kutcher) as he zips along a winding road in a Ferrari, apparently on the lookout for a helicopter. The scene is so overloaded with early Bond look and feel that we expect him to drive into the sea and launch those mini-SAMS from his car-sub transformer. We flash over to recently dumped “Just Jen” (Heigl) and her overbearing parents (Catherine O’Hara and Tom Selleck) as they embarrassingly fight with a hotel clerk about their rooms. Heigl’s Maalox-crunching, shy, socially awkward damsel should clue us in to the borderline cartoon adventure that awaits.
If you weren’t convinced by the “awesomely hot woman with great body obviously grows up to be shy, inept, with piles of self-doubt” setup, the film barely introduces the characters before flashing forward three years. Spencer quit his life as a spy (or whatever) to marry Jen, and she is naturally oblivious to his past. We get a cursory introduction in the beginning, before moving on to a cursory introduction to their new life as a settled couple, because none of it makes a damn bit of difference.
Unfortunately, Spencer’s old boss contacts him again, and then the happy home life starts blowing up around them. Spencer has some splainin to do, and he’d better do it quick if he wants to stay alive.
Things become progressively more ludicrous as we go on, and there is a certain “sign on for a quick check and a vacation” theory that is hard to get out of your mind, but a film that can’t avoid the term “spy-jinx” (and certainly doesn’t want to) isn’t playing at your serious side.
The problem with Killers is that so many films get thrown at you that have no merit to their stupidity that not many people are around who will bother to attempt discerning the difference. Much about this film marks it as a sort of throwback to days long gone when a decent bit of ridiculousness could be appreciated, and a film critic’s stock in trade was not haughtily outsmarting films that aren’t trying to smart. By the time we near the end the thing is practically slapstick, and describing it as stupid is really the same as not saying anything.
While lacking the kind of charm that might have made garnered an actual recommendation, as opposed to simply a willingness to champion it against the hopelessly stuffy, Killers is rather fun, and you won’t be disappointed if you can play along.
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