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'Knight and Day': A One-Laugh Action Comedy

I laughed just once at "Knight and Day." It came when super-spy Tom Cruise grabbed a hunk of rope and a minute later made imaginative, unexpected use of it against his opponents. For once the set-up was clear, the pay-off logical and funny. It was as if Cruise's character and the filmmakers were saying, "No sweat."

The rest of the movie gives off flop sweat -- and no moviegoer could be more disappointed than I am. I admired director James Mangold's work on "Walk the Line" and "3:10 to Yuma." But here even the laughs that click in the trailer fall flat. It's a noisy, over-produced shambles, slack and bloated and silly.

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Cruise keeps telling Cameron Diaz, who plays a gal handy enough to restore a vintage GTO, that she has  "skills." But the would-be humor in the first two-thirds comes from her doing almost everything wrong -- mentally and physically, she's all thumbs. (As a a romance, it's a limp, someday-my-prince-will-come kind of fantasy.) The would-be humor in the last third comes from her acting just like him.

The result is like listening to a typical Jay Leno monologue. You get to laugh at one good joke -- and you get to groan two or three times as it repeats all the bad ones.

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After this movie and "The A Team," I must ask: are we supposed to get off on the utter absurdity of today's big action set pieces? When was the last time an action comedy made you commit to the characters? When was the last time an action comedy had a story that kept you on the edge of your seat partly because it made you use your head?

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