Picks and Pans Review: Last Action Hero

updated 06/28/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/28/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austin O'Brien, Mercedes Ruehl

It's big! It's loud! It's Arnold! And it's a bonus that Last Action Hero, the latest mow-'em-down spectacle from the Austrian colossus, is also intermittently clever amid all its obligatory car chases, explosions and gunplay, not to mention its excessively convoluted plot. Hero is probably too violent and scary for kids under 10, but it will provide a popcorn bucket's worth of Saturday night entertainment for anyone older—and not in a particularly discriminating mood.

This is really a movie within a movie, with O'Brien, 12, playing a fatherless boy who worships Jack Slater, the action hero Schwarzenegger has supposedly played in movie after movie. When, in a move stolen from Buster Keaton's 1924 Sherlock Jr., the kid, thanks to a plot device called a magic ticket, slips through the movie screen and into one of Slater's escapades, reality and fantasy merge. The movie's best jokes are at Schwarzenegger's expense ("Don't plug the restaurant or the gym. It's tacky," wife Maria Shriver warns Arnold as they attend a premiere of the latest Slater film) or make fun of the action-hero genre ("Hey, Claudius," Schwarzenegger, as Hamlet, growls in a fantasy sequence, "you killed my father. Big mistake!").

Last Action Hero is never quite as amusing as it thinks it is. Director John McTiernan lets chases go on for too long, and there are bumpy transitions between scenes. As for the cast, Schwarzenegger extends his range by dying his hair a reddish brown and laughing not only at his own jokes but at other people's as well. O'Brien is acceptably smart-alecky without being obnoxious. Charles Dance is droll but lacks menace as the stereotypical smooth-talking British villain. And Ruehl, as O'Brien's mother, is wasted with only three short scenes. There are also cameos of varying length by Art Carney, Ian MeKellen, Tina Turner, Sharon Stone and several recognizable others. (PG-13)"

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