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The Terminal

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As we were leaving the theater after watching The Terminal, my wife said to me, “I can’t believe how good Tom Hanks is in every part he plays.” I couldn’t agree more. I wasn’t buying Hanks’ performance in the trailers as Victor Navorski, a non-English-speaking man from the fictitious, politically troubled country of Krakozhia, but after just a few minutes into the actual film I was sold. Tom Hanks, along with my skepticism and puzzlement over why he was cast in such a part, disappeared completely as Victor scrambled around the airport desperately trying to understand what was happening in his country via English TV reports he couldn’t decipher. Mr. Hanks, you rock.

Tom’s wasn’t the only great performance in The Terminal; I’d be hard-pressed to think of someone who wasn’t good. Stanley Tucci, Catherine Zeta-Jones…even Kumar Pallana, who I was pleasantly surprised to see turn up in this movie since I’d never before seen him outside of a Wes Anderson film. He’s just as funny here as he was as “Kumar” in Bottle Rocket.

The Terminal gave me a few good laughs, though I have to admit it’s not entirely Sombrero Grande’s favorite kind of movie. Two words that could best describe The Terminal are “cute” and “sweet.” It’s like a Garry Marshall film (Pretty Woman, Raising Helen) with Spielberg’s artsy camera and lighting. This is the kind of fluffy movie I’d recommend to my mom to see. Even in tense moments the film never feels inherently stressful.

There are plot and story touches that didn’t entirely make sense to me but I get the feeling they were there simply to be “cute.” When Stanley Tucci’s character destroys his own lunch in trying to make something clear to Victor, it was kind of funny but didn’t make much sense. Tucci’s character is a bit self-absorbed since he’s eating his lunch while at the same time trying to tell Victor his country has been overtaken by rebels, so when he smashes his bag of potato chips all over the room and Victor to show how Krakozhia is in shambles, I didn’t get it. He doesn’t particularly like Victor or feel that he’s very important, so why does he ruin the lunch he appeared to have been looking forward to just to try to get through to Victor? Probably because the shot of Victor covered in potato chip bits was “cute.”

Another slightly annoying thing about the film was the enormous amount of product placement in it. If you thought the spots for FedEx during Cast Away were gratuitous, wait until you see how often The Terminal bombards you with placements of United Airlines, Borders Books, Sbarro, Boss, Planters Peanuts, Burger King, Swatch, Panda Express, The Discovery Channel Store and seemingly countless other brands. I really started to get annoyed over how hungry I suddenly got for a Whopper when Victor bit into one with all the zest of a Burger King commercial..and Sombrero Grande doesn’t even particularly like Burger King.

Ultimately, The Terminal is a “feel-good” movie that sacrifices plausibility for moments so sweet I think I may need to be checked for diabetes after watching them. The acting is great but the film as a whole is just a bit too “cute” overall for my tastes. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I doubt I’d watch The Terminal again. But I don’t want to decry this film just because it’s not totally suited to my tastes. If all you’re looking for in a film is a light, feel-good ride, The Terminal is a good choice; anyone wanting for more would do well to look elsewhere.

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  • http://www.awddaily.com Bill Lamb

    I agree about ‘The Terminal’ being a bit too high on the sugar count, but, on the other hand, it really would be a great movie to watch when the family’s hanging out together at the holidays. You don’t need to love it, but it is easy to like.

  • D.B.Cooper

    I’m mostly in agreement on The Terminal, a film that is shockingly average considering the formidable talent involved. There are some moments of sweetness and a few laughs early on, but Spielberg was trying to read more into the story than what was actually there. This film should have been far more slapstick and far less sentimental. Spielberg seems to be caught up in bringing tears to our eyes, and this story did not need that angle. This should have been a light, enjoyable, if not hilarious film, and it never remotely touches those areas. The relationship between Hanks and Zeta-Jones is never believable, and the film gets caught up in a sort of maudlin sadness as the lost man discovers a home (the airport) away from home. The string plucks are too obvious.

    Spielberg’s limitations as a director almost always show up in non-dramatic films. The Terminal is an example of a director uncomfortable in the comedic realm. Ironically, if Gary Marshall had helmed this picture, it would have hit closer to the bull’s eye.