[30 September 2005]
PopMatters Film and TV Editor
Jessica Alba looks fabulous. But you knew that already, as she’s appeared on every possible talk show in the past week to hawk her not-so-new movie Into the Blue. As she’s said more than once during these outings, Alba was not wholly prepared for the amount of time she’d be spending in a bikini, not to mention in the water with sharks. Disingenuous as these protestations may sound—surely someone read the contract before she signed it, and maybe someone even read a script—she’s right about one thing: she spends an inordinate amount of time in under- and swim-wear.
That said, she looks more than prepared, her body toned and tanned, her diving seemingly expert, her chemistry with costar Paul Walker suitably ridiculous. If nothing else, In the Blue, yet another bikinis and blue water movie by John Stockwell (who made Blue Crush), makes the case again that Paul Walker has no business being a movie star (his name is listed before Alba’s, as this deal was signed and completed before this summer’s demented success of Fantastic Four). And this is precisely why he is one. Stiff, silly, and very pretty, he does what you expect here—he provides a hard body and moral dilemma for Alba’s level-headed Sam.
In the Bahamas, Sam and Jared (Walker) live in a trailer. He’s a treasure hunter who spends most of his time bailing water out of his rickety rusty boat, she instructs crowds at a Seaworld-style theme park as to the dining habits of sharks. Formerly employed by Bates (Josh Brolin looking especially mean and untrustworthy in sunglasses, baseball cap, and beard), Jared has dreams of the big score, but wants to do it the right way, an aim encouraged by breadwinner Sam and pooh-poohed by his jet-setty frat boy-type best friend Bryce (Scott Caan). A lawyer for scumbags and drug dealers, Bryce arrives for a vacation with a girl he met the night before, Amanda (Ashley Scott), and together the four go diving.
Amid the pretty undersea imagery—fish, coral, clear water—the foursome also runs smack into trouble, of course, having to do with a downed plane full of cocaine bricks (and a few dead, black bodies, glimpsed going down in the film’s first frantic minutes). Alongside this find is a really old shipwreck, which Jared soon comes to believe is a legendary pirate’s ship, that is, a former slave’s bounty, sunk on purpose so that he could escape with his lovely lover, a story of which Sam is particularly enamored, as it’s a properly moralistic and romantic tale.
As the four swim-suited beauties toast their future fortunes, they also realize that they need to get hold of expensive additional equipment in order to recover the treasure. Thus hatches a really bad plan, instigated by the golddigging Amanda and rudderless Bryce, who conclude that they only need to traffic in a little bit of the cocaine in order to finance the treasure recovery. Sam protests, Amanda complains, “She’s so clean she squeaks,” and hallelujah, Sam shoots back, “Shut up you coke whore.” It’s one of this by-the-0numbers film’s most surprising moments, and suggests that Sam’s moral compass, however well-fixed, grants her a little leeway when the time is right. Jared adores and supports her assessment of the plan’s stupidity. And so the idea seems dead. But of course it’s not.
Into the Blue doesn’t even pretend to be serious, which was the essential saving grace of Blue Crush as well. But here the plot is tedious enough and the underwater scenes clichéd enough (that is, not so thrilling as the surf footage of the previous film) to undermine such glib self-understanding. And so the movie is less easily forgivable for its excesses, much less its corny characters. Each appears on cue, when a plot turn calls for him: the brutal kingpin Reyes (James Frain looking especially gaunt and sleepless), the brutal club-owner Primo (Tyson Beckford), and the hapless island cop Roy (Dwayne Adway), not to mention the conveniently helpful local Danny (Javon Frazer).
And oh yes, the sharks. Though Sam is a professional expert on their habits and diets, and so she and Jared are comfortable swimming among the non-man-eating sorts hanging round the treasure site, you can’t really make a movie with sharks in it and not have some harrowing, bloody incident. That this particular version of the shark attack serves primarily to showcase some unpleasant details concerning Bryce doesn’t seem to sink in for Sam and Jared, however. It’s a small thing, in the film’s larger silliness, but it’s enough to make you wonder again about how carefully anyone read this script before everyone signed on.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/into-the-blue/