October 4, 2005

Sahara (2005)
Paramount Home Video

123 mins. · PG-13
16x9 · 1.78:1

Format
UMD

Audio
English - 2.0

Subtitles
English

Extras
None

Starring
Matthew McConaughey, Penelope Cruz

Review by
John Carpenter


Rating



(2005)

Another summer always brings another summer blockbuster. Each year Hollywood spends millions of dollars on the summer blockbuster. With an aggressive marketing campaign and numerous plugs from stars like Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz, America propels movies like "Sahara" to the top of the box office for a weekend. Word of mouth begins to spread and those sizzling numbers quickly fizzle out. Some action movies find new life on DVD and UMD. Will "Sahara" be hot enough to earn your money or will it leave you thirsty for more?

If you pay attention, it is obvious that "Sahara" is basically a remake of "The Goonies". Instead of a boy and his friends looking for a treasure ship to save their families from losing their houses, we have a man and his friends looking for a treasure ship to save the world from losing its health. Whereas "The Goonies" has a series of creative booby traps to progress its plot, "Sahara" relies on random chance and dumb luck to move its storyline. While our friends from Astoria provided numerous laughs and likeable charm, the bland "Sahara" landscape will promise fun and laughs, but deliver a mirage.

In case you haven't noticed, I am not a fan of "Sahara". It takes the usual action movie formula along with the standard action movie look and gives us an entertaining, but forgettable film. For fans of Michael Bay movies, "Sahara" should be at the top of your list. A marketable cast leads the forgettable characters down a journey of adventure. "Sahara" is not a horrible movie; I am simply looking for a trace of originality, which the film does not provide. Add the obligatory Steppenwolf hit "Magic Carpet Ride" and we are given an official action blockbuster copycat. I found everything in the movie humorous. With "Team America: World Police" fresh on my mind, it was hard to take anything in "Sahara" seriously. It doesn't surprise me that this movie underperformed at the box office by recouping just over half of the film's budget. You'd think a director like Breck Eisner would recognize certain elements of the movie were not working. It seems like a sin to grow up with the creative minds at Disney around and have very little to show for it. It may have been a better idea to let a more experienced director tackle "Sahara." Nothing against Eisner, I just think "Sahara" is a tough film to make an official debut with.

Looking at the cast, I actually had some hope for the movie. I think Steve Zahn excels in supporting roles. I enjoyed the comedic element he brought to both "That Thing You Do!" and "Out Of Sight." One issue with "Sahara" is that his comedy feels out of place in the desert. The one-liners feel forced and there is never a solid flow to his character. William H. Macy cashed in with a supporting role as well. He plays the uptight Admiral who is fed up with his subordinate's crazy and destructive antics. Rainn Wilson, who excels in the comedy world with the American remake of "The Office", shows up for a few scenes as a third wheel in an airtight duo. Each of the mentioned actors brings their own unique style to each respective role, but they aren't given much to work with. There is just no energy to the film. Even leads Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz do nothing to enhance the personalities of their respective characters. It is hard to watch a cast of talented artists crawl through an action movie.

Cropped from its intended 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the 1.78:1 widescreen presentation is very nice. Though there are some moments with minor pixelation, the detail and clarity is sharp. The numerous outdoor scenes from the film are easy to see on the PSP screen and will rival the DVD with its picture quality.

As with all action movies, the PSP faceplate speakers cannot handle the various explosions, dialogue, and music without sacrificing a lot of quality. The i.Sound provides deep bass and great channel separation, bringing the 2.0 track to life. Earphones will certainly sound good if you are on the move, but will have some trouble balancing sound during heavy action sequences.

There are no extras on this UMD release.

I have certainly seen worse movies than "Sahara" this year, but this one is disappointing. A strong cast is given a lackluster story and basic formula to create a forgettable movie. While the UMD looks and sounds great from a technical standpoint, the movie is strictly for fans of mindless blockbusters. A lack of extra features and altered aspect ratio may push fans of the film towards the DVD release. "Sahara" works great as a Saturday night movie on cable. I certainly wouldn't recommend purchasing it without seeing it first.

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