Hippo Manchester
August 4, 2005

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Stealth (PG-13)
By Amy Diaz

A bleeding edge of technology airplane joins a trio of human Navy fighter pilots and develops its artificial intelligence in scary new ways in Stealth.

This is not the cold, clinical intelligence of Hal on 2001: A Space Odyssey or Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is more like KITT from Knight Rider meets a Korn fan. EDI (pronounced Eddie), the name of the self-piloting stealth plane, is sassy like every 15-year-old boy who thinks itís, like, so unfair that heís been grounded. EDI is all, yeah, well what if I donít wanna follow your stupid orders, man? What if I just wanna go bomb Tajikistan or go to the mall or whatever? And then EDI pouts and listens to Incubus. No, seriously, the way we know the plane is in rebellion is that it starts blaring out the rock music.

Ah, welcome to August at the movies.

Of course a punk plane is only one of many stars in Stealth. The trio of human pilots a little put out by this mechanical presence are Ben (Josh Lucas), Kara (Jessica Biel) and Henry (Jamie Foxx). Ben is the leader whose job it is to smile real big, be charmingly Southern (Lucas being something of a poor manís Matthew McConaughey) and get his feathers ruffled about the idea that he might be outdone by a computer with wings. Karaís job is to be a girl ó in a war movie this means that she should be tough and tomboy-ish but also have a girly heart and, at least once, be in need of rescuing. Henryís job is to amp up the bravado factor and to frequently point out how unbeatable the three of them are. Seeing that Kara has a secret crush on Ben and Ben has a secret crush on Kara and that these secrets are secret to no one but each other, guess who the expendable member of the group is.

It certainly isnít EDI, who shows up to join in on the War on Terror and do some of the killing that the human pilots arenít physically or morally able to do. The humans donít trust this sort of amoral ability and are particularly alarmed when EDI begins to exhibit odd behaviors after being struck by lightning. Not that any of the of the commanding officers are willing to listen ó the Navy has apparently invested a lot of money in this latest toy and is reluctant to take it out of commission even after it downloads every song on the Internet and starts acting cagey about its plans for all the weapons itís carrying.

The movie progresses through a variety of events, each more absurd and improbable than the next, culminating with the scenes where Kara is forced to bail out over North Korea. No, wait ó itís the scene where a wounded Kara is still able to outrun the North Korean military and more or less shoot her way to the demilitarized zone. Jessica Biel is wonderfully unbelievable as a soldier and her action scenes are, at times, laugh-out-funny.

Stealth takes a few unnecessary detours, including scenes in Thailand to establish a whole bunch of things (Ben and Kara heart each other; Henry likes the ladies and the ladies like Henry) that we have known since they were unsubtly demonstrated in early scenes. As a result, itís at least 45 minutes longer than it needs to be. Had this movie been a fast-moving hour and 15 minutes of hokey military clichťs and man-vs.-machine-hooey, it would have been short enough to serve as the kind of enjoyable late-summer entertainment it is clearly meant to be. Instead, its attempts to interject morals or philosophy or plot into a collection of special effects and almost-one-dimensional characters bogs the movie down. This is like introducing lettuce to a Snickers. Donít screw up perfectly good junk food by trying to give it the appearance of nutrition.

Stealth is and was always meant to be a bad movie  ó I just wish it had applied itself and tried to be a little worse.