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Stealth   B

Columbia Pictures

Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Rob Cohen
Writer: W.D. Richter
Cast: Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Sam Shepard, Richard Roxburgh, Joe Morton, Ian Bliss, Ebon Moss-Bachrach.

Review by Sean O'Connell

Can you tell the difference between "smart" dumb and "dumb" dumb? Michael Bay's The Island (a "dumb" dumb) beat its decent premise to smithereens with choppy edits and hackneyed stunt choreography. Now Stealth (a "smart" dumb) takes the opposite route by wrapping a silly idea around impressive effects and the sense of brainless enjoyment we request from our summer blockbusters.

It helps that director Rob Cohen has sped down this road before, honing his chops on XXX and The Fast and the Furious. Both delivered what they promised -- high-octane thrills that charge the heart without taxing the brain, and Stealth effortlessly joins their formation.

Taking Top Gun to a new generation, Stealth features three cardboard-cutout naval pilots who are the self-professed best at what they do. Brash team leader Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas) shrugs off authority and makes impulsive decisions on assignment. His wingman is a competent woman, Kara (Jessica Biel). Of course, she's attracted to Ben despite knowing he's a bad boy. The triumvirate's third leg is cocky Henry (Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx, in an odd followup to Ray), who's content to use his rank to file away exotic conquests. Hey, they can't all be heroes.

Their team is thrown a curveball when the Navy unveils the E.D.I., a pilotless stealth jet equipped with artificial intelligence and programmed to think like the military's finest fighters. Ben balks, but his superiors dismiss his concerns. Of course, the lieutenant's fears are confirmed when a lightning bolt (yes, a lightning bolt) fries the E.D.I.'s systems, and the haywire jet abruptly embarks on its own deadly missions.

The laughable parts are attributed to W.D. Richter's script. The Navy learns that three of the world's top terrorists are meeting in the same location minutes before they gather! And a separate gaggle of warmongers carry nuclear warheads to their castle lair on the back of oxen. Lucas buys into the nonsense and drags Biel with him, while Foxx ignores the fluff and coasts through on personality. I'm just thankful Cohen overlooked his favorite leading man -- Vin Diesel -- because one's disbelief can only be suspended so far.

Stealth is competent and entertaining, ridiculous and fun. Above all else, it manages to be memorable, something its main competition for marquee attention hasn't been yet this summer.

Review published 07.28.2005.

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