* * (2006, 111 minutes, Rated PG)
In which Stephen Baldwin and his IQ of 229 save the world.
I thought I'd squeeze in one more holiday movie, though only on a technicality -- the movie takes
place on Christmas Eve. Not sure why. In fact, it makes little sense as this is the story of seven
geniuses who are covertly abducted by the government to match wits with a terrorist. If any of the
geniuses' families notice that they're missing, we never see it.
After opening on news clips of death, darkness and destruction, FBI Special Agent Mehlman voice-
overs about how he has a secret so big (how big is it?) that it could CHANGE THE WORLD. Then,
breaking all sorts of government security protocol, Chatty Cathy Mehlman immediately tells us all
So, as I mentioned just the other paragraph, seven Americans with IQs north of 200 -- whom
Mehlman located by using Google! -- are "brought in" by the government as part of a terrorist's
demands. Said terrorist (played by Tom Sizemore in full made-for-TV lunatic mode) has planted a
nuclear bomb in Washington, D.C., and he'll set the bomb off unless the "genius club" can solve
all the world's problems by dawn. How one determines whether or not the "solutions" will work or
are even viable is never addressed.
Okay, I thought, this sound preposterous, but let's go with it. Then the terrorists rolls his scoring
system, where he awards or deducts points based on the genius's responses. And if the genius
club reaches 1000 points, they win!
Does this sound like a bad reality TV show to you? Me, too. Let's meet the contestants!
- JACOB, a former lawyer turned seminary student who has written a best-selling book about
God. According to Wikipedia, it was really important to the producers that Jacob was played
by a "real Christian." I'm sure the other Christians (or " so-called Christians," according to
the producers) on the set loved that sentiment.
- EDWARD, a Nobel Prize-winning economics professor. Yes, he's the one with the bow-tie.
- ALLY, the "quiet by shockingly brilliant" painter whose works have been compared to Da
Vinci. Ally is played by "Battlestar Galactica" babe Tricia Helfer, but Ally is dying of cancer.
Congrats on de-hottifying Tricia Helfer, movie!
- RORY (America's Stephen Baldwin), a pizza delivery guy who happens to have the highest
IQ of the bunch. He's the resident "bad boy," as evident by his skateboard and Whatevah
attitude. Sadly, besides posturing, Baldwin is given little to do.
Joining the Genius Club is Agent Mehlman and the President of the United States. Some weak-
kneed Secret Service agent appears periodically to remind the POTUS that his attendance is
stupid and that he should go post-haste to a bunker. POTUS won't because of, you know, 9-11.
POTUS explains rather emphatically throughout the film, and at no point does it make a lick of
So now everyone is up to speed and Tom Sizemore is on the big screen, bouncing around in the
shadows like a loon, and here comes the first problem: "Every war has been a meaningless
waste of life. Discuss."
Okay. 1) That's not a problem, that's a value statement. "How can we prevent war?" is a problem.
2) I suspect that for the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps and the ethnic cleansing in
Korosovo -- and that's off the top of my head -- there isn't much to discuss. See the Special Side
Bar for more.
And so it goes, with lots of people bitching about the "rise of mediocrity" and how everyone is too
busy watching TV and reading magazines to care about "true human achievement." Politics is the
cause of all problems, pro athletes are overpaid, we make inferior products, healthcare and
religion have been monetized, blah blah blah blah blah. It's all really just a platform for the terrorist
(and through him, the screenwriter) to rant and rave like a talk radio host. It's all a big Superiority
- TATIANA, a biochemist who has cured athlete's
foot. Thank God. Tatiana's biggest characterization
is that she has asthma, guaranteeing at least a
couple dramatically timed asthma attacks.
- JULIA, a casino owner and chronic overachiever.
She's the voice of every remorseless corporate
- JOSE, a successful baseball player. He spends
most of his time whining about not being with his
family, which I found entertaining coming from a
guy who presumably isn't home for eight months of
|Everyone sucks but me. Wah!
The points are punctuated by absurd flashbacks, like
the time that Agent Mehlman pulled a gun on a
mechanic because he was not going to pay a lot for
that muffler. By the way, we learn in these flashbacks
that Agent Mehlman rides around in a cheesy green
motorcycle. Every time Mehlman would ride into the
scene, I'd start singing "Cool Rider" from Grease 2. I'll
leave it to you to determine who is the bigger dork in
(Notice that I haven't included a poll for this.)
Back in the bunker, the geniuses bicker, each having a turn at their Big Dramatic Moment. The
drama is punctuated with such lines as "I'm just a casino owner and that's all!" and "Mr. President,
I have to go to the bathroom!"
Needless to say, the genius club doesn't solve a damn thing. Worse, Tom Sizemore throws out
the occasional riddle, which only succeeds in making the "geniuses" look stupid for not knowing
the answer to riddles I've seen on children's programming.
The Genius Club moves and feels like a student film, what with the desperate camera work,
amateurish lighting and inconsistent sound editing. This is ultimately the work of someone angry
at everyone and everything, trying to make sense of the world. All the whining and complaining
gets tiresome in a hurry.
And for all the "big ideas," the film is aggressively unoriginal. Think Baldwin's bad boy will have a
late change of heart and be cooperative? Think they'll stop the bomb with mere seconds to spare?
Think the asthmatic Titania will toss away her inhaler to symbolize her new lease on life?
That last one is my favorite. As someone who has asthma, I can personally tell you that nothing
says "liberated and care-free" like throwing away the very instrument that can alleviate one's
chronic respiratory condition.
So the first "problem" that
Tom Sizemore's terrorist
poses is the statement:
Every war has been a
meaningless waste of life.
Certainly our latest
excursion into Iraq seems
more like a war of choice
than a war of necessity, and
it feels all the more obscene
when you note that even the
high estimates for universal
health care (which
Congress can't stomach) is
still far less than the
estimates for our current
wars (which Congress was
happy to green-light).
Having said that, I will now
make the seemingly tacky
argument for war.
As a species, we're a
combative bunch. Always
have been, from the
gladiators of yore to last
weekend's Jell-O wrestling
party. Hell, half the fun of
professional hockey is
waiting for a fight to break
out. But while one could say
that war is just a fight on a
grand scale, nations don't
start fights the way your
local barfly does -- nations
(Oh, it may be a terrible
motivation, like ethnic
cleansing or megalomania.
But there's always a reason.)
Because a nation's
motivation is something
beyond, "I was drunk and in
a bad mood," there have
been a number of positive
results stemming from war.
In no particular order:
-- Preventing genocide
(World War II, Bosnian War)
-- Establishing a free nation
(U.S. Revolution, First
Indochina War, Greek
American Wars, many
-- Overthrowing monarchies
for democracy (French
-- Liberating enslaved
people (end result of the
U.S. Civil War)
Also, we got Rambo: First
Blood Part II.
Having said that... "In the
councils of government, we
must guard against the
acquisition of unwarranted
influence, whether sought or
unsought, by the
The potential for disastrous
rise of misplaced power
exists and will persist."
-- Dwight Eisenhower
|WAR! GOOD GOD!
WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
A SPECIAL SIDE BAR