Johansson Finds Winning Ticket in 'The Island'

July 22, 2005 -- -- Now in theaters: "The Island" and "Bad News Bears."

The Island

Scarlett Johansson has just won the lottery and her prize is a trip to "The Island," the only non-contaminated place left on Earth. Ewan McGregor is her friend. She'll miss him, though they're really just friends. The Proximity Police makes sure that they stay just friends.

What kind of world is this? Who are they? When is this? Where is this? Some of the fun of "The Island" is that we find out as the characters find out. And even more of the fun is that Steve Buscemi -- one of my favorite actors -- is the guy who tells them the truth: "You're clones, You're copies of people out here in the real world."

"The Island" is about a time, not far into the future, when the rich and famous can clone themselves, just in case they need an organ transplant. This is a story of what happens when the clones find out, escape and try to track down their other selves.

The chase takes them to downtown Los Angeles, a city gridlocked with Michael Bay car crashes. Johansson delivers an excellent performance with the depth and skill you don't expect to find in a summer shoot 'em up. As she calls the person who has cloned her on a video phone, a kid who could be her daughter asks, "Is that you mommy?"

"The Island" is a trip worth taking. Grade: B.

Bad News Bears

One of the places I hope you don't find mom, at least I hope mom doesn't find you: The remake of "Bad News Bears."

You'll see the same Little League scenes cut to opera music. But that was original in the original. You'll see the same beer-guzzling, acid-tongued coach, this time played by Billy Bob Thornton.

In the Walter Matthau original, there was something funny and, yes, innocent about the kids spouting four-letter words. But the coach, not the kids, is the focus of this remake. The innocence is gone. And so is the funny.

"What's he doing?" one kid asks as the coach lays passed out on the pitcher's mound.

"He's drunk," says another kid.

"I'm taking his wallet," says a third.

As in the original the Bears are saved by a female pitcher, this time played by Sammi Kane Kraft, who can really pitch 80 miles an hour. But we're so used to special effects we're never shown it's really her.

Written by the guys who did "Bad Santa," a hysterical Billy Bob-fest about and for grownups, this remake is not funny enough for grownups. And wildly inappropriate for children of all ages.

"You guys swing like Helen Keller at a pinata party," Thornton tells the kids, and that's just one of two Helen Keller jokes. Two Helen Keller jokes? Didn't it occur to anyone in Hollywood to ask who this movie is for?

Some movies you take the kids to and there are scenes you have to cover their eyes. This one you would have to cover their ears. I love Billy Bob and the director, Richard Linklater, made my "10 best" list the last two years with "Before Sunset" and "School of Rock." But this one's too foul for kids. It's no hit. It won't run. It's an error. Grade: C-.

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