Laurence Olivier used to say that in preparing for a role, he would find his character when he hit upon the right nose. For Thornton, apparently, the key is donning the perfect wig. Playing frontiersman Davy Crockett in this middling would-be epic, Thornton tosses his shoulder-length stringy locks with romantic abandon. The hair is the balancing yin to the yang of Crockett's otherwise sardonic demeanor. Thornton's amused and amusing performance adds welcome humor to an otherwise dour, choppy, cover-all-the-bases movie.
Depicting the brave but doomed last stand in the titular fort of a couple hundred men against a massive Mexican force in San Antonio in 1836, this Alamo will not be remembered as the definitive cinematic version of the famous battle. Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Rookie), the film labors to bring to life historical figures such as Sam Houston (Quaid, who barks every line), knife-carrying Jim Bowie (Patric, glum as ever) and Lt. Col. William Travis (Wilson), the commanding officer. We learn snippets about each: Houston drank; Bowie had tuberculosis; and Travis was a debtor. The movie is so busy shuffling its large cast on- and offscreen, though, that neither the individual characters nor their greater cause ends up registering much. (PG-13)