John Lee Hancock's THE ALAMO is cartoonishly awful! As a native Texan who
spent last summer visiting that shrine to Texas history, I found this comic
book version, all dressed up and asking to be taken as a serious drama, to be
an insult to the brave people who died on both sides of the battle. Overacting
with a vengeance, the actors are sometimes almost laughably bad. The only
enjoyable performance is that by Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett. Thornton
tosses in the towel early on and tries to turn the movie into a spoof. He is
the only one who gets how bad it is. Expect to see this film on many
worst-of-the-year lists. It's this year's GODS AND GENERALS, although these
two war pictures fail miserably for different reasons. THE ALAMO is painfully
over the top and sometimes downright silly whereas GODS AND GENERALS was
painfully slow and just about inert.
The movie is about the battle for the Alamo, a fortress fortified by a hundred
or so Texas regulars and militia, which was besieged by a well-trained and
well-equipped Mexican army of thousands. According to this version of the
story, Crockett was an opportunist who only came to the Alamo with his men
because he thought the battle was over.
Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (Emilio Echevarrķa), we are told, was a
buffoon, a megalomaniac and a sadist. He thought the lives of his own men were
worth no more than chickens, and he insisted that large numbers of them die in
battle in order to increase the glory of the victory. Wealthy and pompous to a
fault, he also did pretty ridiculous things, including walking out into the
open by himself in clear rifle shot of every Texan on the wall in the Alamo.
As you might guess, it is only Crockett who fires -- and misses.
The ridiculous moments in the movie come so often it's hard to remember them.
Two more of my favorite stupid moments are the time that Crockett, standing up
as a easy target, engages the enemy in a musical battle with his violin vs. the
Mexican's band and the time that every man, woman and child in the Alamo on the
first morning of the battle wakes up at the exact same moment.
Memorably awful performances include Patrick Wilson's wooden work as Col.
William Barrett Travis and Dennis Quaid's grandstanding as Gen. Sam Houston.
As James Bowie, Jason Patric keeps starting to deliver semi-decent work but
keeps giving up.
This troubled production was originally to be helmed by Ron Howard, who had an
R-rated, realistic version in mind. When Disney insisted on a more easily
marketed PG-13 film, he pulled out. He is given a producing credit now,
probably only for his work on his movie which never got made and which had a
different cast attached.
Only in the post-Alamo epilogue, culminating in the battle of San Jacinto,
which actually lasted only eighteen minutes and which won the war for Texas,
does the movie ever deliver on any of its promise. Trust me. The last section
is not worth waiting for.
Remember the Alamo but forget this movie.
THE ALAMO runs a long 2:15. It is rated PG-13 for "sustained intense battle
sequences" and would be acceptable for teenagers.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes