The Spirit
Death is the only way out of this film!

Theatrical Release Date: 12/25/2008
Director: Frank Miller
Cast: Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Dan Lauria, Sarah Paulson

Usually, Christmas is the time for studios to release their best films, hoping to capitalize on families spending time together at the holidays and snagging loners with nothing better to do with a day off from work. This is clearly NOT the case with “The Spirit” and just in case you’re multi-tasking and buying tickets for this online … STOP!!!! Read this before making any hasty decisions that will deprive you of the cash to buy yourself sustenance later on as a present to yourself for enjoying the film’s running time in peace.

“The Spirit” is based off the comic book series by Will Eisner. It’s a revered series about crime fighting and I had hoped that director Frank Miller’s respect for the work would translate to at least a passable film experience. However, what ends up on screen for the unfortunate viewer is a giant, heaping mess of awfulness.

First off, Gabriel Macht does not make for an imposing crime fighter. He seems far too young to embody the role and his voice over work is on par with afternoon read-a-louds at the public library. The strikingly red tie he wears never worked for me (it looks digitally inserted even though it’s real) and he reminded me far more of a poor man’s version of Lee Adama on the revamped “Battlestar Galactica” sci-fi series … and send my apologies to Jamie Bamber for the slight.

Samuel L. Jackson is great at scenery chewing and that’s about the best it gets for him here. The character is a cross between Dr. Octopus (in more ways than one) and his ultra-campy villain in “Unbreakable”. He delivers his terribly written lines with relish but that doesn’t help my damaged mind in any shape or form at this point. The scene where he delivers a premature victory speech while dressed in Nazi regalia with a swastika behind him didn’t help things either. (And no, you read that last sentence correctly.)

Moving onto Scarlett Johansson, if you thought her Tom Waits cover album was bad, wait till you see how wooden and uninspired this performance is. It was almost like watching her plod through a Saturday Night Live skit … one of the ones from the last half hour that’s never any good (though there are varying opinions on the first hour as well).

Perhaps the root problem is the insulting script, which asks the actors to utter monologues and vitriolic curses that served only to make me pray for a temporary loss of hearing. I barely know where to even begin to rail against the dialogue and voice-overs, which are some of the hokeyest lines I’ve ever heard. Here’s a sample taken from the trailer: “My city, I can not deny her. My city screams. She is my mother. She is my lover, and I am her Spirit.” Yeah, see what I mean?

And every time I thought I had seen the worst part of the film, it kept going. The action is cartoonish, as was probably the intent, but also so outlandish and unrealistic that trying to hide behind the film’s CGI stylization still didn’t work. That same CGI whitewash on the city created a stark landscape devoid of any vitality. The Spirit’s womanizing may have played okay in the comics (if it was there at all) but it’s offensive on screen.

Here are the three best things I can say about the film:

1. The dad from “The Wonder Years”, Dan Lauria, is here … thinking of the classic TV series was one of the few respites during the films 103 minute runtime (which was 104 minutes too long).

2. Eva Mendes actually worked for the part and looks fantastic in many of her less than proper costumes (of course) … although the rest of the cast and the script which failed everyone else also didn’t do her any favors and don’t start to think that this one element really made any of it that much better.

3. It’s over for me and I’ll never have to see it again.

Fans of “The Spirit” comic series will find director Frank Miller’s “Sin Cityizing” of the source material doesn’t work. Fans of “Sin City” will find the mollified version of that effort to be a waste of time. And everyone else should just save their money for more important things, like burning or toilet paper.

I haven’t wanted to leave a theater this badly in some time now and only “The Love Guru” really approached this level of pure, unadulterated crap. I think you get my drift and will not be surprised as I happily hand out a 0 out of 5 to “The Spirit”. How this film had been given such a choice release date is beyond me and I can only hope that these words help as many people as possible in these difficult times to avoid ruining their holidays and saving them the neck pain that results from shaking your head at a film so much.