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The Skulls

video review out of 4 Movie Review: The Skulls

Starring: Joshua Jackson, Craig T. Nelson
Director: Rob Cohen
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: March 2000
Genre: Suspense

*Also starring: Will Beckford, Paul Walker, Leslie Bibb, Steven Harris, William L. Petersen, Hill Harper

Review by John Beachem
1 star out of 4

"A skull above all others," a red robed member of the secret society proclaims in Rob Cohen's new film, "The Skulls". John Pogue, previously responsible for writing such "masterpieces" as "US Marshalls" and "Eraser", sprinkles this kind of inane, meaningless dialogue throughout the movie. I suppose I shouldn't have expected anything more out of a movie like this one, but somehow I thought the presence of Joshua Jackson ("Dawson's Creek", "Urban Legend"), one of the more talented young actors in Hollywood, might spark some life into this outing. After an interesting, if predictable, opening sequence involving a rowing race (I didn't even know rowing was a college sport), my hopes were going up. Instead, the movie snowballs downhill, getting worse and worse until it reaches one of the most ridiculous endings I've ever seen.

Luke McNamara (Joshua Jackson) is a champion rower for his college's rowing team, having led the school to three consecutive victories. His abilities have attracted the attention of The Skulls, a secret society composed of students and graduates from the university. To join their ranks, he has to complete a series of tasks with the other hopefuls, including the local rich kid, Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker), son of the society's chairman, Litten Mandrake (Craig T. Nelson). While membership in the society alienates Luke's friends, Will (Steve Harris) and Chloe (Leslie Bibb), it's making his college dreams come true. However, this particular society may be a little darker than Luke first suspects, and he learns they're not above covering up things like murder.

I'm not sure just where to start with this ridiculous movie. Alright, I'm going to go over the film's good points first, which shouldn't take long. The music is, at times, rather nice. Starting with a somewhat creepy sounding score and changing into a more uplifting one during the rowing scene, the score is nicely used to highlight key scenes. Unfortunately, the soundtrack changes rather suddenly into a series of modern rock and rap songs. The only other high point I can think of in this moronic film is that there are one or two mildly suspensful scenes, though I can't seem to remember what exactly they involved. Except for these two points this is just another unbelievable, boring, shallow teen flick which will somehow draw in the high school crowd.

The actors here are, for the most part, unconvincing at best and laughably bad at worst. Jackson himself appears to know what a lousy movie he is in and sleepwalks his way through his scenes. Leslie Bibb ("Private Parts") is more than a little unconvincing as his love interest, and Hill Harper ("In Too Deep") is given very little to do as Jackson's best friend. Craig T. Nelson (Coach, "The Devil's Advocate") plays a character who is nothing more than a cardboard cutout villain. The worst performance of the movie comes from Paul Walker ("Brokedown Palace"), who seems to take his part very seriously, despite scenes where he is asked to do things like look up to the heavens and cry NO! The only decent performance comes from William L. Petersen ("Gun Shy"), playing a southern senator and doing a fairly good impersonation of Bill Clinton.

I think the thing in this movie that most grated on my nerves was the unbelievably cheesy dialogue. The fact that some of these actors were able to say their lines while keeping a straight face is remarkable. I do hope Joshua Jackson is able to obtain a better script for his next film, however since his next movie is going to be called "Gossip" I'm not holding my breath. Despite all the horrible ideas you see brought to life throughout "The Skulls", nothing can prepare you for the insanely horrible ending. The movie runs about 100 minutes, which feels about an hour longer than that. I can't think of anyone I'd recommend it to unless you're looking for a few good, unintentional laughs. I give "The Skulls" a generous two out of five stars.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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