A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Hot on the heels of "Far from Heaven," which looked exactly like a 1957 melodrama, here is "The Core," which wants to be a 1957 science fiction movie. Its special effects are a little too good for that (not a lot), but the plot is out of something by Roger Corman, and you can't improve on dialogue like this: "The Earth's core has stopped spinning!" "How could that happen?" Yes, the Earth's core has stopped spinning, and in less than a year the Earth will lose its electromagnetic shield and we'll all be toast--fried by solar microwaves. To make that concept clear to a panel of U.S. military men, Professor Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) of the University of Chicago borrows a can of room freshener, sets the propellant alight with his Bic, and incinerates a peach.
To watch Keyes and the generals contemplate that burnt peach is to witness a scene that cries out from its very vitals to be cut from the movie and made into ukulele picks. Such goofiness amuses me.
I have such an unreasonable affection for this movie, indeed, that it is only by slapping myself alongside the head and drinking black coffee that I can restrain myself from recommending it. It is only a notch down from "Congo," "Anaconda," "Lara Croft, Tomb Raider" and other films which those with too little taste think they have too much taste to enjoy.
To be sure, "The Core" starts out in an unsettling manner, with the crash-landing of the space shuttle. Considering that "Phone Booth," scheduled for release in October 2002, was shelved for six months because it echoed the Beltway Sniper, to put a shuttle crash in a March 2003 movie is pushing the limits of decorum, wouldn't you say? And yet the scene is a hum-dinger. The Earth's disturbed magnetic field has confused the shuttle's guidance system, causing it to aim for downtown Los Angeles. Pilot Bruce Greenwood insists "it's Mission Control's call," but co-pilot Hillary Swank has an idea, which she explains (ital) after (unital) the shuttle passes over Dodger Stadium at an altitude of about 800 feet.