Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Knight Rider

As we meet Mike Traceur, the heir to Michael Knight and nominal "hero" of NBC's Knight Rider remake/sequel, he is asleep in bed, wrapped around some anonymous naked girl. As his roommate tries to awaken him, yet another hot girl, this one in her underwear, climbs into the bed and wraps herself around Mike. What are we to make of this introduction? Perhaps we are meant to think, Wow, what a cool guy! Not only does he have threesomes with hot chicks, but they are so frequent that it doesn't even seem to be a big deal, and they are so satisfying that both girls want to stay and cuddle until morning! This is my kind of dude! Probably we are not meant to think what I thought: What a colossal douche; I hate this guy and the people who thought this would make me like him. Is this any kind of example for a hero to set? Think of the children. Won't somebody please think of the children?!

Seriously, though, think of the children. Granted, this scene isn't exactly explicit, but it is inappropriate and unnecessary. This is Knight Rider after all, a stupid show about a talking car full of crime-fighting gadgets, and if you don't think that sounds like a kids' show, then I have a serious adult drama about a boy talking to cartoons that I'd like to sell you. Don't get me wrong, I love Knight Rider's premise; at its best, it's a lot of fun. But it undeniably appeals to kids (as it did to me in the '80s), so is it too much to ask that a show this dumb be family-friendly enough for parents not to squirm while watching it with a seven-year-old (or for teens and twentysomethings not to squirm while watching it with their parents)? It's not like there are serious themes that will be undercut by a less-than-realistic treatment of Mike Traceur's promiscuity as a coping mechanism for grief. This isn't The Sopranos, or Dexter, or even Sex and the City. It's Knight Rider, and kids should be able to watch Knight Rider, and fuck you, whoever decided to make Knight Rider not kid-friendly. Have some damn consideration for others.

The next scene introduces a hot girl FBI agent showering on the beach in her bikini, then going to her bedroom to get rid of a hot blonde girl from the night before. Wow, a lesbian cop who has one-night-stands with hot chicks! I can almost hear the fratty high-fives in the writers' room. It's as if they forgot that they already wore out the "this character is cool because they get laid" introduction in the previous scene. Even if you've already taught your kid about lesbians, surely the gratuitousness of another character who likes to sleep around would be a bit annoying if you were a parent. Mike's anti-monogamy stance, unnecessary as it is, is at least explored later, while this FBI agent scene is pure titillation. I like hot slutty lesbians as much as anyone, but there's a time and a place, fellas.

Fortunately, all of this is a moot point because the movie is no fun at all. It consists mainly of people having dull conversations while sitting in a car, intercut with random shots of a car driving through the desert that are straight out of a car commercial, only less exciting. Kids are likely to get bored and give up before the end of the first excitement-free hour, leaving only adults with incredible patience to enjoy the revelation that a fictional version of Blackwater is behind the plot to steal KITT's creator's technology and use it to start wars for profit. As a comic book fan, I realize that you can sneak serious ideas into light entertainment and make it work, but never has it felt clumsier and more unnecessary than it does here.

To add to the mess, the cast, particularly the leads, are so bland that you can barely bring yourself to pay attention to what they are saying. Did Ford demand that no one be cast who had more presence than the car? Granted, the dialogue consists mostly of swaths of exposition exchanged with a close-up of KITT's voice box, so it's hard to blame the cast for everything. The only actor to make an impression is the nerdy bad guy who plays Andy on Quarterlife, maybe because I recognized him already, or maybe because he has a knack for at least delivering bad lines with a trace of humor.

The car chases are abysmal, some of the worst I've ever seen. I hated the quick-cut car chase in The Bourne Supremacy because you couldn't actually see anything that happened, but at least that movie managed to imply that exciting things were going on, even if it stubbornly refused to show them to you. Knight Rider neither shows you anything cool nor bothers to imply it. Much of the high-speed driving just looks like sped-up footage. The editing is too fast to show the action and not fast enough to obscure the fact that no interesting stunts are being performed.

If any of the following terrible car action scenes sound exciting, then this may be the show for you:

- KITT drives through a college campus at sorta-high speed as students jump out of the way. As the car weaves through campus it makes lots of turns on wet pavement.

- KITT is followed up a mountain road (near Stanford!?) by the bad guys, who are keeping up with the supercharged sports car just fine thanks to their shiny new Ford Edge. KITT leads the bad guys into an oncoming truck, which he estimates will kill them, but (when we return from the commercial break) they stop just in time to prevent damaging the Ford Edge and upsetting the show's sponsor. Thank goodness for those top-notch Ford brakes!

- As the two bland leads talk, KITT drives through a parking garage a little bit faster than one might normally go.

- KITT morphs into other Mustangs of various colors and price points, in order to throw the bad guys off their trail and better display the full range of Mustangs available at your local Ford dealer.

- KITT's nanotechnology (every screenwriter's go-to buzzword to explain magical, impossible things) absorbs and repairs bullet hits T-1000-style, ensuring that Ford need not worry that a less-than-pristine Mustang might ever appear onscreen.

- In the movie's climactic action scene, the one scene that actually somewhat approximates a car chase, Mike uses KITT to ram the bad guy's SUV. (Don't worry, the bad guys have switched to an unbadged GMC, so it's okay for it to take damage!) KITT's computer has been deactivated, allowing bullets to shatter a window in what have been a major coup for producers after days of negotiating with Ford. Mike activates KITT's computer, turning the car invincible again just in time to cut off the SUV. The SUV collides with KITT at full speed like it's running into a wall--KITT not only is unscathed, but doesn't even move. Apparently invincible nanotechnology also lends a car unlimited mass when necessary. Luckily the captured good guy in the SUV is the one guy who's fine after the horrible crash.

There is not even one Turbo Boost jump in the entire movie. That is like a Dukes of Hazzard movie without a jump; why even bother? Even the awful direct-to-DVD Dukes prequel attempted one lame CGI-aided jump. If Knight Rider can't make room in the budget for a jump in its big expensive pilot movie, what are the odds that the show will be able afford it in the lower-budget weekly episodes? The original Dukes and Knight Rider shows used to wreck a car in a jump every week, and now we can't even get one decent jump in a heavily-hyped TV movie? How is it that all the advances in technology and film production in the past twenty years have only made car chases worse?

Why the hell isn't this movie any fun? Even the Ford commercials featuring Knight Rider that run in the breaks (assuming you can tell the difference) are more fun than the movie itself, where everyone is talking and talking about their tortured past and parent issues and relationship troubles and Iraq and... Who cares? Never have attempts at character development been so unwelcome. I don't remember learning anything about Hasselhoff's Michael Knight besides that he was a good guy with a cool car who actually went out and did things.

You don't need to lay this kind of groundwork for Knight Rider, especially not at the expense of everything that makes the idea enjoyable. Just give the dude and his car a crime to solve and let them get on with it. Instead half an hour goes by and Mike still hasn't met the car. Nothing happens in this pointless movie. If the last scene--in which Mike and KITT, now in the employ of the FBI, are dropped off a plane for their first mission--had been the first scene, there might have been a movie here. Instead it's two hours of complete bullshit that no one will enjoy--not bored kids, not uncomfortable parents, and probably not even the people at Ford.



Steve said...

This TV movie had been setting off all sorts of alarm bells for me. Thanks for confirming them and saving me 2 hours. I guess I'll delete it from the DVR to free up room for something more useful, like more reruns of Ninja Warrior that I'll never watch.

Do you mind if I quote excerpts of your review on my blog? (With a link back to your full review.)

Kenny said...

You're not missing anything. If you click on that link to the final chase, you'll see pretty much all the action there is to see in the movie. Re: quoting - Be my guest.

Rodimus Prime said...

I was wondering if/when you'd get around to ripping this a new one.

I have been reading a few comments on TVguide.com and EW.com and I will tell you that quite a few parents enjoyed this as "family" entertainment. I did not watch this movie (totally forgot it was coming on) so I didn't know about the three-way but I did know the FBI agent was gay. Perhaps parents are getting more lieutenant with that stuff? At least it wasn't a woman with two dudes, that would have made heads explode.