Picture three of Hollywood's most promising actors trapped in the absolute worst eighties rock video imaginable. In a strange way, it’s wonderful. Whether by accident or intent, Stealth misses only a theme song by Kenny Loggins to capture all things both good and bad about mid-eighties blockbusters. Director Rob Cohen has borrowed heavily from movies like D.A.R.Y.L., War Games, Top Gun, and even Flight of the Navigator, lifting almost wholesale all their silliest moments and jamming them into a huge wad of goofy, take my breath away nostalgia. It's wacky, half-baked, and fast paced. I'm not sure if I should club it to death or hug it.
W.D. Richter’s script is the story of three hotshot naval pilots forced to help the military test out their latest advancement, a warplane without a driver. It’s not a simple drone; the plane is controlled by an intelligent computer whose brain rests inside a rather stylish looking ball mounted in the cockpit. The ball is named EDI or “Eddie”, and has one of those really soothing, friendly computer voices that tells you it’s up to no good. Our Homo sapien hotshots are Ben (Josh Lucas), Kara (Jessica Biel), and Henry (Jamie Foxx), but it’s Eddie that has all the personality. Lucas, Biel, and Foxx are all extremely gifted actors, there’s just nothing written in the screenplay for them to sink their teeth into. You have to wonder what they’re even doing here. In the case of Foxx he signed up for it before he commanded the respect earned with an Oscar. In the case of Biel, she looks to have been searching for a place to show off the muscles she acquired on the set of Blade Trinity. Josh Lucas, I’m going to assume he needed a new swimming pool. From the vacant “kill me now” expressions behind their eyes, it’s obvious that none of them are happy. Their characters are running on empty, and there’s nothing any of these usually talented people could have done to save them. Oh, they eat popsicles and wear bikinis, but other than a stock “I fear being replaced by computers” overreaction from Ben they’re a pretty banal group, of the type you’ll find in any military movie
What’s most unique about them is their planes, which instead of being normal military fighters are souped-up super-planes. It’s a little unnecessary, when you consider Eddie is already himself super-enhanced. The film might have been better were they running around in older fighters, trying to battle superior technology with sheer brains and instinct rather than fighting superior technology with slightly less superior technology. But this isn’t that kind of movie. It’s a throwback to a time when if you could fit a Mr. Fusion on a Delorion and turn it into a flying contraption, then by God you did, because that’s a pretty cool thing to do.
As you’d expect, eventually Eddie goes haywire and stops following orders. There’s a weird attempt to indicate that this may have been caused by a lightning strike, but if you’re going to spend that much money on a jet you’d think the government would equip it to handle a thunderstorm. Ben and his cadre are ordered to hunt Eddie down, but find themselves being undermined by a typically corrupt Navy General. Mixed in there is a really laughable plane crash and a lot of missile launches and explosions culminating in a heavy handed funeral sequence that’s bound to elicit unlooked for laughter.
Rob Cohen is the man to blame for both The Fast and the Furious and xXx, so it’s no surprise thatStealth fits comfortably into their mold of silly excitement. Like Cohen’s previous films, it drips with his signature noisy, amped up, frequently annoying style. But unlike his other work where the man at least seems to know where he’s going with the material, Cohen doesn’t really appear to be taking Stealth anywhere except perhaps straight over the edge.
There’s no denying it, Stealth is ridiculous. It’s a big, sloppy, fur ball of stupid, wild action sequences punctuated by lame military pomposity. Twenty years ago this film would have been huge. Today it’s hilarious. It’s a big, lumbering, idiotic brute of an action film; giddy with high-octane schmaltz and so full of unjustified hubris it’ll give you an incurable case of the giggles. Even the effects are good for a chuckle, with rollickingly dumb crash sequences and unnecessarily CGI’d warplanes packed into every frame of the film. A lot of people are going to hate it, but if you’re a little lonely for the good old days of manic computers, personality free pilots, and terrible soundtracks, then you won’t want to miss this one. Stealth is a movie so bad, it’s almost good.