Skyscraper takes stupidity to new (and entertaining) heights

Skyscraper takes stupidity to new (and entertaining) heights
Skyscraper – In theaters this summer

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Moller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, McKenna and Noah Cottrell. Written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Opens Friday at major theatres. 102 minutes. 14A

Watching the sky-high stupidity that is Skyscraper makes me think it’s high time that some international court or high-minded individual stood up for the laws of physics.

Hollywood has abused them for too long — and action star Dwayne Johnson is the prime perp, having already committed high treason against fundamental forces of nature with Rampage earlier this year and San Andreas in 2015.

Judge Howell will hear the arguments: Does gravity no longer carry any weight? Is duct tape really a magical substance, capable of turning a guy the size of Johnson into Spider-Man?

We shall consider mitigating circumstances: Johnson’s willingness to please, Skyscraper being a Big Dumb Movie and writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s avowed aim to entertain the masses with an homage to Die Hard (30 years old this week) and other high-altitude thrillers.

Will the defendant please rise: to the 240-storey behemoth in Hong Kong called The Pearl, which resembles three long, slender fingers holding a tennis ball. It’s literally the scene of the crime, hubristically described as “Fort Knox, a mile in the sky,” which in movie terms means its security systems can be cracked with a single stolen iPad.

The facts of the case: Johnson plays Will Sawyer, the new cybersecurity chief of The Pearl. He’s a former Marine and FBI hostage rescue ace, who is seen heroically losing a leg in a violent prologue involving a deranged man and a threatened family.

Sawyer is first and foremost a family guy — see that wedding ring on his finger in the poster? — and he and his combat surgeon wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and their two darling children have moved into the World’s Tallest Building (TM) because they’re upwardly mobile.

You got this, Dwayne Johnson.
You got this, Dwayne Johnson.  (Universal Pictures.)

The Pearl was built by billionaire genius Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), who added a funhouse of virtual mirrors at the very top because he likely anticipated needing some cool visuals when diabolical bad guys strike.

Which they do, led by a Swedish dude named Kores Botha (Roland Moller), who is about as scary as an Ikea pitchman. (Where is Hans Gruber when you really need him?) But Botha and his stooges know how to set a fire, and the sight of a skyscraper ablaze — shades of 9/11 and London’s Grenfell Tower — is almost as terrifying in a movie as it would be in real life.

The baddies and the blaze didn’t reckon on the wiliness of Sawyer, and his determination to rescue his family, when they become trapped high in the sky. He makes Spider-Man look like an insect and Superman a sissy in his dogged determination to scale the heights and battle all odds by dint of muscle and sheer will power — and also duct tape, which hasn’t had this much free publicity since the heyday of The Red Green Show.

The physics-defying acts get so ludicrous, at one point I thought Johnson was going to swim up an indoor waterfall to rescue somebody trapped at the top. His constant MacGyvering in the midst of roaring flames and falling steel beams prompts Sarah to yell “This is crazy!” to him at one point, which of course it is.

“Trust me!” he yells back, and darned if the man doesn’t have a point. Bruce Willis had a smirk and that “Yippee-Ki-Yay!” taunt in Die Hard that made you think he could do anything, even if he was a bit of a jerk about it.

Johnson has sincerity to spare, with those puppy-dog eyes that make you want to follow him and his prosthetic leg up and into a burning building — even if his raised eyebrow indicates that he knows how nutty this all is. There’s probably no other actor alive who can match Johnson’s empathy in the midst of dodgy CGI destruction.

The court rules: belief is willingly suspended, on account of dumb summer fun. Judge Howell plans to invest in duct tape stock, pronto.

Peter Howell is the Star’s movie critic based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @peterhowellfilm


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