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Starring:: Justin Bruening, Deanna Russo, Bruce Davison, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Val Kilmer, David Hasselhoff
Created By:: Glen A. Larson
Aired: Sunday, February 17, 2008 at 9:00 p.m. EST on NBC
One of the downsides to remakes and spin-offs of classic TV series is that we often raise our expectations up so high that it’s almost impossible for the new show or in this case, TV movie to meet them. I can accept that though, which is why I usually allow for a bit of disappointment in cases like these. Unfortunately, Knight Rider not only failed to live up to the hype, but it didn’t even come close to what I was hoping it would be.
Before I start complaining about what was wrong with the movie, let’s talk about what worked. Pretty much the only thing that made the movie worth watching was seeing the upgraded version of KITT. KITT 2.0 is cool. The car can heal itself, which means not only is it bullet proof but thanks to nano-technology (a science, I wont even begin to try and understand), it’s body can patch itself up almost instantly even after a major collision. KITT can also change its appearance and has access to other computers, camera systems and satellite feeds. This naturally proves to be a most useful feature.
I was excited when I first heard that Will Arnett would be playing the role of KITT’s voice and disappointed when I learned a few weeks ago that he was replaced due to his contract with GMC but Kilmer does a fine job with the role, so I have no complaints there in terms of the voice. My only real annoyance when it comes to KITT was the car’s insistence on administering therapy to its passengers. Perhaps these scenes, one of which involved the main character, Mike (Justin Bruening) and another that involved his love interest Sarah (Deanna Russo), were just excuses to allow us to get to know the main characters a bit better but the whole thing came off as corny. The car’s flying through the mountains at 100 mph and at the same time, chatting with Sarah about her relationship with Mike. Seriously?
The plot of the movie centers on a bunch of bad guys who are trying to steal some hard drives from Charles Graiman (Bruce Davison). Not only did Graiman create KITT, he’s also working with the government on some super-secret technology for the military. The bad guys need to get the encryption key for the hard drives and so after they believe Graiman has died; they attempt to get to his scientist-daughter, Sarah. KITT has been ordered to find Sarah and bring her to Mike, a former Army Ranger whom Graiman believes can protect his daughter.
Mike has problems of his own though. He’s in debt to a bunch of people and spends his days avoiding the collectors and his nights bedding multiple women (at once). It’s pretty much established early on that while Mike might be a nice guy, he hasn’t really been living the best life. When Sarah first meets up with Mike, he’s gambling away money he doesn’t have at a casino (the Montecito - Las Vegas fans surely caught that little tidbit). Mike and Sarah have a romantic past but since things didn’t work out there’s some tension that is obviously going to lead up to something. Here’s the problem I have with that. Do we really want Mike to be romantically attached from the get-go if this thing turns into a series? This means that if the two continue to form a new romantic relationship most likely what we have to look forward to are a lot of episodes in which Sarah gets kidnapped and Mike and KITT have to rescue her. Yawn. I’m getting ahead of myself though. The final character that needs to be mentioned is Carrie Rivai (Sydney Tamiia Poitier). She’s a lesbian FBI agent and friend of Graiman. She’s also who Mike will be answering to on future missions.
The plot of the movie is basically an excuse for a lot of major car chases. This is to be expected as Knight Rider has a car for a main character but did anyone else feel like they spent the bulk of the two hours watching a glorified Ford commercial? I’m sure this was part of the deal they had with Ford but it was a bit too obvious for my taste. Whatever mood might’ve been set by the film was broken every time I saw a Ford logo. And it wasn’t just the logos, some of the chase scenes even seemed to be shot in the style of a car commercial, focusing on the different angles of the cars as they tore through the streets. For the record, I have nothing against Ford. I just don’t like feeling like I’m watching a commercial when I’m trying to enjoy a TV movie.
It was no surprise that the Hoff made an appearance in the movie. Hasselhoff briefly resumes his role as Michael Knight, Mike’s father. He’s been out of the picture for most of Mike’s life though so I’m not sure if they’ll try to work him back in on a semi-regular basis in the series or if the Hoff will only come around from time to time, perhaps to shed some wisdom on how to operate/befriend a talking car.
I’ll be honest, as a movie, Knight Rider wasn’t that great but as the set-up for a series, there is potential there. Considering how many technological advancements there have been since the original series aired, there’s a lot that can be done with KITT in a new Knight Rider series. A lot of that was demonstrated in the movie and I’m sure there are plenty of other ideas for KITT upgrades that can be added in over time. It’s the story and the character development that needs some serious work here. I can’t say that I cared much about any of the characters, including Mike (who is borderline unlikable) and Sarah, whom I wouldn’t mind seeing written out of the actual (potential) series. There are definitely some major improvements that need to be made in terms of the writing, direction and character set-up if the series gets picked up and NBC wants people to keep tuning in once the novelty of new-KITT wears off.
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