'Battleship' review: Mind-numbingly entertaining

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'Battleship'

'Battleship' (May 15, 2012)

*** (out of four)

If you think stupidity is an automatic movie deal-breaker, don't see an action spectacle about aliens attacking military vessels that's thinly based on a board game.

Entertainment doesn't always require smarts, though, and the foolishness of “Battleship” feels harmless compared to the smug, often-offensive assault of the similar-looking “Transformers” series. No insensitivity goes unchecked in “Battleship,” and I didn't mind the dumbness of lines like, “Who do I call to teach you humility?” or aliens who resist attacking people who don't pose an immediate threat even during a full-blown battle.

This movie simply promises great effects and all-hands-on-deck heroism, and the loud, exploding hunk of junk delivers.

Flexing his “Friday Night Lights” charisma that took time off for “John Carter,” Taylor Kitsch stars as Alex, a reckless slacker forced into the Navy by his older brother (Alexander Skarsgard) after Alex's attempt to woo Sam (Brooklyn Decker) gets the guy tased. What, you don't think a woman who looks like Decker would fall for someone because he stole a chicken burrito for her?

Of course, Sam is the daughter of a hardass admiral (Liam Neeson) Alex will have to impress if he wants to propose. Lucky for him, impending dismissal from the Navy takes a backseat to the arrival of giant spaceships from Planet G, a recently discovered planet with a climate similar to Earth. Its populace, however, looks like Power Rangers villains with unkempt goatees, which only enhances the movie's fun.

No red and white pegs factor into the fight, but writers Erich and Jon Hoeber (the bad “Red” and worse “Whiteout”) find an enjoyable way to work in the board game's strategy of playing defense in the dark. It's laughable on screen, and what's wrong with that?

More goofy rewards come from Kitsch's “FNL” castmate Jesse Plemons delivering the movie's best one-liners. Individual moments, like a determined veteran who has lost most of his legs and a kid facing an alien attacker, ultimately make “Battleship” more memorable than “The Avengers.” (An unpopular opinion, but there it is.) In a minor role, Rihanna's performance makes the competent-enough Decker (the horrendous “What to Expect When You're Expecting”) look like a seasoned pro.

This completely outrageous effort didn't need to stretch more than 131 minutes, especially with no more story to maintain than a movie based on the game of Tag. Still, director Peter Berg (“Hancock”) and veteran music producer Rick Rubin wisely include not one but two AC/DC songs. Like that band, “Battleship” is big, simple and hard-rockin'. It's great when a summer blockbuster offers clever verses, but I'll settle for a killer chorus.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais

 

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