April 11, 2005 -- “Sahara” is a wacky comedy adventure loosely based on the popular Clive Cussler novel (I've heard the author is not happy with the adaptation). It involves a Civil War-era ironclad ship loaded with Confederate gold in the Sahara desert, a high-tech solar-powered waste disposal site, a mysterious disease, an evil warlord, rebel warriors, spies, an evil industrialist, a pretty doctor, a dashing, well-muscled treasure-seeking hero and his amusing sidekick.
I know, it is too much stuff for one plot to hold, but it is all clumsily crammed in there. This overstuffed plot is way beyond belief, but that is also true of any Indiana Jones movie, “The Mummy” and “National Treasure,” and they were all big hit movies, so who's to say this one won't be a hit, too? Matthew McConaughey of “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” stars as adventurer Dirk Pitt, who hunts treasure around the world on a big boat with his buddy Al Giordino (Steve Zahn of “Joy Ride”). The boat is captained by a cigar-chomping ex-military dude, James Sandecker (William H. Macy of “The Cooler”).
Soon, Dirk and Al meet up with the pretty doctor Eva Rojas (Penélope Cruz of “Gothika”) who is investigating a mysterious disease in Mali for the the World Health Organization. Soon the whole boatload is on their way up the Niger River on their way to meet their destiny. On the way, they meet up with the evil warlord, rebels, the evil industrialist, etc. I won't even try to describe what happens. I'm not sure it can be explained without the aid of a bottle of tequila. Suffice it to say, stuff happens, people get shot and things get blown up real good. Here's an example of the unbelievability of the plot. In one scene, Dirk and Al find a crashed airplane in the desert. Using a tool kit they find in the plane, they convert it into a sail car and zoom across the desert with the speed of the wind, leaving the tool kit behind. I guess they figured this rig was so solid it wouldn't need any repairs. It is theoretically possible to build a sail car out of airplane parts of course, but highly unlikely under the circumstances. It is a true “MacGyver” scene.
The acting in the film is pretty good, especially by McConaughey, Zahn, Macy and Cruz. The comedy team of McConaughey and Zahn works well together and there is some romantic chemistry between Cruz and McConaughey. I've always thought that McConaughey is an excellent romantic lead, and he shows it here again. The plot of the film is absurd, of course, but it is also highly tongue-in-cheek. Nobody's trying to make a serious film here, just a big, dumb, entertaining adventure with comic elements. As such, it works. It is much like “The Mummy” and “National Treasure” in that regard, but less serious than either of those films. It would have worked better with a funnier and more believable script. This film rates a C.
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