In Steven Spielberg's THE TERMINAL, Viktor Navorski, played in another
heart-warming performance by Tom Hanks, is a local celebrity and hero.
Viktor's entire world is the International Transit Lounge at the JFK airport in
New York. His homemade bedroom is in Gate 67, currently unused while awaiting
renovation. His flight home has been delayed -- for months. In his halting
English, he explains his problem succinctly as, "America Closed," at least for
As Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), a quintessential bureaucrat with the title of
Director of Immigration at JFK, explains it, Viktor is stuck in a Twilight Zone
existence because of "a crack in the system." Krakozhia, Viktor's homeland, has
had a coup just before he lands, which causes him to be a man without a
country. All visas from his country have been voided by our State Department,
but he can't go home since his country and his passport are no longer
recognized by the United States.
This adult fairy tale is low on logic but reasonably easy to forgive its flaws,
including how fast Viktor learns English. With its themes and moods, it has
"Christmas movie" written all over it, including its ending in a blowing snow
storm. DreamWorks, in a marketing move that is either gutsy or foolish,
decided to open the film in the heat of summer, when special effects-laden
blockbusters are ready to smash anything this sentimental. The movie is cute
but it goes on too long and isn't nearly as entertaining as the last Spielberg
and Hanks collaboration, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN -- another holiday-type movie,
which did open in the right season.
Without fungible funds, Viktor has to find a way to make American money in
order to eat. His first scheme has him collecting carts, which he turns in for
quarters at an automated machine. Frank, who does all he can to get rid of
Viktor so he can become someone else's problem, shut downs the terminal's cart
entrepreneur by hiring someone for the job. Viktor becomes more aggressive in
search for cash after he falls for a gorgeous stewardess named Amelia
(Catherine Zeta-Jones). Amelia says she is thirty-nine but tells people she is
thirty-three, while men assume she is twenty-seven. Zeta-Jones appears to have
her own personal time machine, aging negative amounts between movies, getting
younger looking by the day.
The overstuffed movie has an on-going mystery. Viktor carries around a can of
Planter's Peanuts -- the movie is bursting with product placements -- full of
who knows what. Frank is dying to know, but Viktor won't talk about it.
Suffice it to say that you'll never guess. I'm hoping that enough people will
guess that summer is for more than monsters and mayhem and that a picture like
THE TERMINAL is worth as much consideration as vampire hunters, ancient
warriors and boy wizards.
THE TERMINAL runs too long at 2:10. It is rated PG-13 for "brief language and
drug references" and would be acceptable for kids around 7 and up.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes