Is Sahara the most boring, most derivative, most contrived, most ridiculous action/adventure movie ever made or is it merely an excuse for Matthew McConaughey to make a commercially viable buddy-buddy flick while kicking back, downing some brews, and getting sand in his teeth in the most incredible locations known to mankind? I really can't decide.
Based on the novel by Clive Cussler, we meet master explorer Dirk Pitt, who is just itching to go on his next treasure hunt. He gets that chance when he finds a fabled coin linked to a historical legend and heads to some of the most dangerous regions of West Africa, searching for what the locals call the ''Ship of Death''--a long-lost Civil War battleship that harbors a secret cargo. But don't waste a second of time wondering how a Civil War battleship found its way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Sahara Desert; no one involved in the movie did either. Along for the ride is Dirk's wisecracking ''sidekick'' Al Giordino (Steve Zahn), who always knows just what to say in the most dire of situations. Not. The boys also meet Dr. Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz), a beautiful doctor who believes that the hidden treasure may be connected to a larger problem that not only threatens the lives of the locals but possibly, like, the entire world. Whoa, dude! Although the guys spend most of the movie blowing things up together, you just know that somehow their paths are going to cross again with Eva's and when they do, it's gonna be, EXPLOSIVE! Like, literally. Duuuuuude!
Who can act with all those explosions going off? And in the middle of the desert? McConaughey is so suntanned, so blow-dried, so lovingly filmed in this movie that I was half expecting the distinctive twang of the ''porn guitar'' every time he made an entrance. In every shot he's glistening, bronzed, with a megawatt smile and that laid-back inflection of his that makes it sound like he just rolled out of bed, stretched, scratched himself, and then moseyed himself down to stand in front of the cameras. Similarly, Zahn who is usually cast as the hyperactive, frenetic best friend is cast as--big surprise--the frenetic, hyperactive, frenetic best friend. The only difference is that in Sahara, he must have been allowed to use McConaughey's personal trainer because Zahn has never looked more studly. He, too, is all windswept and taut muscles, matching McConaughey's frosted tips to frosted tips and squint for squint. Oh yeah, Penelope Cruz is in the movie, too, walking around with horned rimmed glasses perched on her face to show that she's a Serious Doctor Person. Yep, that just about does it for the acting.
Matthew McConaughey tells us ''the word Sahara actually means 'desert'.'' If we take our English lesson one step further we can define desert as: ''A region of permanent cold that is largely or entirely devoid of life.'' Yep, that about sums the movie up. Although director Breck Eisner has done his best to assemble all the elements and set pieces of an action/adventure film, we've seen them all before. Never throw one punch when you can throw 10; never drive in a straight line, when you can zoom around in a long, sweeping curve, being sure to kick up as much dust as you can. And don't sweat the small details like finding a working pay phone or a gas station in the middle of a desert or locating live ammunition in a ship that's 150 years old. Never say, ''I'll be fine!''(because for sure you're going to die). Or ''I'll be right back.'' (because again, you're guaranteed not to). And, of course, the ever popular, ''How many times am I gonna have to save your ass?'' (c'mon, that was rhetorical). We already know that a train is going to be involved; someone is going to get tied to a truck, and somewhere, somehow, there will be camels. It's the desert, for heaven's sakes. There's nothing fresh here. Dialogue is just a mere convenience to move the actors from one band of bad guys to the next, and none of the actors are really given much to do other than whoop and holler a whole lot. Oh yeah, and blow things up. Don't ask how the 150 year old cannonball can still explode. Just leave well enough alone.
If you've seen every Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider and Star Wars and The Mummy, and you STILL want to see more action films? Then you might want to consider this one. At least it'll use up some time until the next Star Wars movie comes out.