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Skyscraper dumb but fabulous fun

Tuesday July 24, 2018 Written by Published in Entertainment
Dwayne Johnson plays the lead in the movie Skyscraper, now screening at the Empire Cinema. 18072008 Dwayne Johnson plays the lead in the movie Skyscraper, now screening at the Empire Cinema. 18072008

It is a scandal that there is no Oscar or Bafta or Golden Globe for Best Dumb Fun.

 

It's a category just as valid as drama, musical or animation, all of which we single out for their own dedicated baubles.

But Dumb Fun – to me, is a style of film-making that only ever gets recognised at the ticket booth. All those, “I only watch films that the critics don't rate”, comments online are a valid backlash against the fact that numpties like me and my colleagues are often all too keen to dismiss likeable and entertaining films as somehow not worth taking seriously as we scurry into the arthouse to fawn over the next black-and-white drama about disabled ballet dancers out of Iraq. Or that's the perception anyway.

Truth is, I love a good dumb film as much as anyone. And they are harder to find than you might think. For every Skyscraper there are 10 wannabes cluttering up the DVD salebins of your local Warehouse – and often with surprisingly big names on the cover. Hello, Nicolas Cage – or slinking in to the multiplex for a week at most.

A good, dumb film, like a good film in any genre is a brilliant collision of writing, performance, technique, direction and a big dollop of some indefinable rightness of intent that lends the whole project a likeability and charm that will power it through the field. And Skyscraper has all of that in spades.

Yes, Skyscraper is really not much more than a remake of Die Hard transplanted to Hong Kong. But that in itself is no bad thing.

Neither is having Dwayne Johnson in the lead. Johnson, like Bruce Willis before him, is able to transcend a pretty mundane idea and deliver it with such conviction and wit we are basically cheering him on despite knowing, really, what we are watching is as contrived as it is physically impossible. Willis did it by looking like a cheerful bloke who just happened to be remarkably tough and resourceful. Johnson, despite the impediment of that ludicrous body, somehow gets a pass on the same seems-like-a-nice-guy meter in a way that the similarly inflated Stallone and Schwarzenegger never could.

In Skyscraper, Johnson plays a retired FBI field agent reinventing himself as a security consultant. He does enough early to sketch out a character before guiding us on a tour of everything in the film that is about to catch fire, fall over or be jumped off. We are introduced to Neve Campbell (terrific, but underused) as Johnson's ex-combat surgeon wife, and a couple of cute kids. One of whom has the requisite dose of movie-asthma you just know is going to pay off in the final reel.

And that's Skyscraper in a nutshell. Everything in the first 30 minutes that catches our eye – even some matrimonial banter about how to fix a jammed cellphone – is a set up for what happens in the next 70. Of course it's formulaic, but it's also fun to watch unfold.

What Skyscraper lacks is a truly memorable villain. There's a selection of baddies to hiss at, most notably Aussie Noah Taylor, looking about as sane a bag of weasels, and Roland Møller (Atomic Blonde) as an all-purpose Euronasty who looks like he might even be able to take Johnson in a fight (Obviously, he can't). But there's no standout – an Alan Rickman in Die Hard, to condense and crystallise the threat to Johnson and family.

Skyscraper is a ludicrous load of old rubbish that will not enrich your life by a single iota for having seen it. But it is also a well-made, well-crafted and easy to enjoy film that does everything the trailer promises. Bravo.

            - Stuff.co.nz