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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 Walter Frith
0 stars out of 4

'The Skulls' was such a disappointment. More than that it was appalling and downright destined for the 'Dawson's Creek' generation and no one else. In fact, this could have been a 'Dawson's Creek' episode where people would say: "Wow, how bizarre. I never thought I would ever see an episode like this".....much in the same way that fans of 'The X-Files' re-acted when they saw their first humour episode of the show.....the only difference is that 'The X-Files' is usually brilliant and is certainly landmark television. I wanted to see this film eagerly because, allegedly, it is based on fact, however loosely. It's an intriguing premise. A group of ivy league freshmen at a prestigious American university take a vow and become members of a secret society which amounts to little more than selling you soul to the devil. The cars, the cash, the women and the political connections make you almost untouchable. The seductive aspect of these creature comforts is stamped with a hot branding mark on your body in the form of a skull that makes you a distinct member of the society. There is also the hidden crypt where meetings take place, a wrist watch in the form of a skull and a code of conduct guide in the form of a pocketbook that you are to keep in your possession at all times. The movie alleges that three former presidents of the United States are members and the real life curiosity of the media prompted them to ask a former president and his son if they're former members.

Joshua Jackson of television's 'Dawson's Creek' is Luke McNamara, a young man with a seemingly bright future who gets more than he bargains for when he joins a secret society with all the trappings mentioned in the above paragraph. Luke's closest friends in life are his girlfriend Chloe (Leslie Bibb) and his best buddy Will (Hill Harper). Luke makes friends and a fresh face in his life is Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker). Caleb's father Judge Litten Mandrake (Craig T. Nelson) is a reigning power within the skulls and welcomes new members with the aid of Senator Ames Levritt (William Petersen) and the university provost, Lombard (Christopher McDonald).

As I was watching this film I was reminded of how some film makers bite off more than they can chew. This film is the perfect Saturday night popcorn movie rental when it comes to home video where a group of teenage girls will gather around their television and swoon over the two young male leads. Fine, but what about something for the rest of us. This film is also unintentionally funny to the worst extent. It constantly looks like the actors are trying to pull off dramatic situations and they keep tripping over themselves and can't find the whirlwind of success in pulling it off.

Director Rob Cohen who made a startlingly brilliant television movie for HBO in 1998 entitled 'The Rat Pack' which captured perfectly the lives of entertainers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Peter Lawford, is at the head of 'The Skulls'. Cohen also made a fine bio pic of martial arts legend Bruce Lee in 1993 entitled 'Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story' and Cohen has a knack for capturing the nostalgia of a certain period with fluid filming and a brisk pace to shower audiences with entertainment. He should have seen the light at the end of the tunnel here. Writer John Pogue's screenplay is like a blister driving you mad. You keep hoping the pain will go away but it only gets worse.

The climax tries to usher in an old fashioned way for gentlemen to settle their differences but you can rent Stanley Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon' to see it done in a much better fashion. It's also a climax (again, unintentionally funny) where you don't care one bit about what happens to the characters. I was actually sitting there with my eyes closed and my hand in front of my face and glancing up every few seconds because it was so bad and now I guess I'll tell you how I REALLY felt about the movie! : - )

Oh, well, with a film this bad, we at least know that given the treatment by this motion picture that if this type of thing does exist in real life, we know the perpetrators are definitely safe! But there is no safe part of this movie which will make you attack the movie theatre's cashier in an attempt to get your money back.

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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