"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
Copyright © 2000 John Beachem