In case you missed some of last summer’s enormous pre-release buildup, “Knight and Day”—now out on equally-hyped DVD—stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. This may be all that you actually need to know about the film: aging, somewhat screwloose action hero/heart-throb meets somewhat-past-her-youthful-prime romantic comedy star. If this sounds ageist, well, I’m an aging guy myself, and I feel like I’ve seen this movie numerous times. In other words, this is a formula film, so the only question is how well it fills out the numbers.
The answer is (speaking Minnesotan now) not too bad. Director James Mangold and screenwriter Patrick O’Neill, tacitly acknowledging that they are occupying the territory of Commander James Bond, serve up the appropriate cocktail with some comic twist—shaken, if exactly not stirring. The McGuffin (speaking now in Hitchcock) is a C-cell battery sized energy producing miracle called “The Zephyr,” the object of intense national and private desire, since it can generate enough power to drive a submarine and do so forever. (Sadly, Duracell gets the product placement, presumably outbidding the Energizer Bunny.)
Cruise plays “Roy Miller,” a secret agent who has the little beauty but may or may not be trying to sell it to the highest bidder. He claims to have been set up by the real rogue, Special Agent Fitzgerald (Peter Sarsgaard), who is now after the battery, along with a legion of guys in black SUVs. At the Wichita airport, Ray meets June Havens (Diaz), bumping into her twice and switching the battery into her luggage to get it through the TSA screening. See, June likes to restore old cars, so she’s got a bag full of replacement parts. Right.
So when she gets a seat on a “full” flight to Boston that has maybe six passengers aboard—including Roy—she might be suspicious. And when she goes to the restroom and emerges to find that Roy has killed them all—including the flight officers and attendants—well, this could tell her that people are not what they seem. AND, when Roy crash lands the jet in a corn field and then drugs her, the viewer should be shouting out, “Don’t go any further, girl!”
But that would cost us a bunch of chases: in cars running against traffic (natch), on a motorcycle running against the bulls in Spain, over rooftops, through the Orient Express, and so on. The script also relies on running gags: the doping, June’s ditzy refusal to follow orders, Roy’s calm reiteration, “It’s OK. I’ve got it,” when matters look impossibly dire. But about halfway through the comic momentum just stops, the frantic charging about notwithstanding.
There are some amusing moments, as when June talks herself into making a pass at Roy while he’s wreaking havoc or when she’s given truth serum with amusing results. Here, the filmmakers get some sporadic humor out of the spy flick clichés, earning the movie its “PG-13” rating along the way. But if you want to see some genuinely, consistently funny work with old film formulas, go rent “Toy Story 3.”