Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are adorable but deserve a better film. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
Like the Titanic before it encountered that iceberg, “Passengers” initially takes its viewers on a more-than-promising trip. It is sometime in the near future, and regular-dude Jim (Chris Pratt) is traveling on a spaceship, on his way to a new civilization and a new life. The journey will take 120 years, which is why Jim (and every other passenger and crew member) is in a hibernation pod — but it malfunctions, waking him up many decades too early. Because everything about the ship is fully automated, including meal dispensers (best to not ask probing questions about freshness), he’s able to live quite comfortably — and yet he’s completely, terribly alone.
It’s an intriguing premise — how could a person live entirely without companionship? — and for a while, you watch “Passengers” fascinated. Turns out that Pratt’s legendary charm nicely survives having nobody from which to bounce off (instead, it just kind of bounds around the room). And the sleek production design, which looks like what might happen if the people behind “Star Trek” launched a cruise line, is a pleasure. It’s both beautiful and eerie, like a high-tech Overlook Hotel in wintertime.
And then Jennifer Lawrence, floating in on a metaphorical iceberg, shows up, and “Passengers” suddenly becomes a different movie; one both sentimental and off-putting. A plot device, which I won’t spell out here, changes the way we look at Jim, but the movie doesn’t seem to grasp this; instead, a weird space romance plays out, followed by a brief transformation into a not-very-convincing space disaster movie, and ultimately an ending that’ll leave you with a well-scratched head and many questions (most notably, “Um, what?”).
Movie Review ★★
‘Passengers,’ with Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne. Directed by Morten Tyldum, from a screenplay by Jon Spaihts. 116 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexuality, nudity, and action/peril. Several theaters.
Pratt and Lawrence, no surprise, are adorable together — her expression of joyful wonder, as the two of them dance in outer space, is almost worth the ticket price. (Yes, the movie almost became a space musical, and I wish it would have gone there.) But “Passengers” turns out to be a very strange journey indeed; here’s hoping these two team up again, in something more worthy of them.
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