Knight Rider: the car is nice, the movie is meh - VIDEO
I say that because, since the excellent "re-imagining" of the craptastic '70s scifi series hit the air, we expect the remakes of our favorite shows to be darker, more layered, and more complicated than the originals. But sometimes, going darker doesn't always work: take a look at the failure pile that passed for the Bionic Woman remake as the best example of that. So, when a "25 years later" return of Knight Rider was announced, I half wondered if they were going to go the BSG route and make it all serious. But I equally wondered if they would go the other way and make it a modern camp classic, sort of the way the original, Hoff-injected series was.
Turns out, the answer was "none of the above." Mostly the movie / backdoor pilot that aired last night was dull, with a few fleeting moments of camp thrown in. But it never made me clamor for the show to return as a series.
Gallery: Knight Rider
The main plot of the movie involves some generic "evildoing" organization that wants the codes to a military remote control system. The person who has the codes just happens to be Charles Graiman (Bruce Davison), who invented the Knight Industries Two Thousand 25 years ago, and has created a sequel, the Knight Industries Three Thousand (because "two thousand" no longer sounds futuristic). When the generic evildoers threaten Graiman, KITT is dispatched to fetch his daughter Sarah (Deanna Russo), a Stanford professor and PhD candidate, and down-and-out race driver Mike Traceur (Justin Bruening), who's has more than a passing relation to the previous KITT's driver, Michael Knight.
Really, you don't need to know any more about the plot than that, other than the fact that FBI agent Carrie Ruvai (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) is also on the Knight "team," to give the sheen of government approval to the Knight project. For some reason, Ruvai is introduced to us waking up next to some random woman she met the night before, but the lesbian angle of her story is never explored after that. Are we going to return to this if the series gets picked up? Or was this introduced to show us that we're in 2008 and not in 1983 anymore, and that random lesbian one night stands are acceptable on TV?
There are other plot threads that are introduced then dropped: Traceur's buddy Dylan is threatened by the thugs who want Traceur to pay off his debt, but we never see him again until he shows up at the end of the movie, completely unharmed. And we really don't know why Traceur's mother had to hide out to raise Mike after Michael Knight got her pregnant. Again, maybe some of this stuff will come home to roost if the series is picked up, but it's too many loose ends for a supposedly closed-ended TV-movie.
Most of the funny moments, as you'd expect, came from the car. KITT was voiced by Val Kilmer, who stepped in and re-recorded all of the car's lines at the last minute when Will Arnett had to back out of the project. It's too bad; Arnett's combination of faux-seriousness and deep voice would have done well in this role. Kilmer, as he has throughout his career, takes the role a bit too seriously, removing whatever personality KITT could have had.
Still, the car's use of visual aids -- something the '80s, William Daniels-voiced KITT couldn't do -- were pretty funny. For instance, when KITT asks Mike about why his high-school relationship with Sarah ended so abruptly, one of the questions he asks is, "Are you a... homo-sexual?" and flashed pictures of the rainbow flag and the Gay Pride Parade. So that wasn't bad. And this version of KITT's main effect, the use of nanotechnology to repair itself and change its appearance, was executed very well. Unfortunately, the car doesn't have the same Turbo Boost (complete with compressed air cartridge falling away from the car on every shot) that the old KITT had. I miss Turbo Boost.
A couple of more items:
- No mention of Devon? It's as if he never existed.
- The chemistry between Mike and Sarah was nonexistent. She's a Stanford PhD candidate, and she's still smarting over the fact that Mike didn't call her after their post-high-school-graduation summer romance? Jeez, get over it, woman!
- Could Ford's sponsorship of the show be any more obvious? Besides the close-ups of the Cobra logo on the Mustang that played KITT, we also got to see the car morph into multiple colors and available ground effect packages, all of which I'm sure are available at a Ford dealer near you! Oh, and all the cars on the road, especially in the big chase scene, were either Fords or Volvos (which is owned by Ford).
- Speaking of Ford, the ads where KITT's "jealous" of a Ford Focus made me want to throw a shoe at my TV. I bet Kilmer didn't realize he'd have to voice those silly commercials when he signed up for the gig.
- Was it really necessary for the bad guys to kill the kid who worked at the motel? I wonder if this was another way to show that it was 2008 and not 1983, since no one seemed to die on the original series, no matter what kind of calamity happened to them.
- Bruening has about as much range as a 40-year-old shortstop. When the bad guys shot his mother, and she said "I lovvveee youu....gah!" before she died, he barely moved.
- We knew that Hasselhoff wasn't going to show up until the very end. I will say, that's the best acting I've seen him do in a while, cheeseburger-eating home videos included. As my boss Keith said, "I wonder how much he got just to stand there?" I wish he would have come out with the leather jacket and fro-let (combination of a 'fro and a mullet) that he had in the original series.
Anyway, if the show does come back -- and if the ratings are big for this movie, I'm damn skippy sure it will -- executive producers Doug Liman and David Bartis need to make some changes. Maybe tell Bruening to emote more. Or tell Kilmer to not be so damned serious. But they can keep the car. I like the car. As long as it doesn't fall in love with that Ford Focus.
(By the way, our friends at Autoblog live-blogged the movie; the result is here.)
|Yes. I thought the movie was a lot of fun.||506 (35.8%)|
|Maybe. They need to make a lot of changes.||583 (41.2%)|
|No. It was so boring I decided to inventory my dental floss instead of watching it.||325 (23.0%)|