Twister (Jan de Bont)

Rating: *1/2 (out of ****)

Remember the really stupid, witless, groan-provoking sections of Speed -- the ones that took place before and after the terrific central sequence on the bus? Many of you may have wisely opted to repress them, in the interest of recalling Speed fondly in years to come, so forgive me for jogging your memory: one of them involved an elevator, the other a subway train. Remember the moronic dialogue, choppy pacing, grating musical score, and utter disregard for narrative logic that characterized them? Now imagine a two-hour film that awful, but featuring truly astounding, seamless special effects. Imagine five-minute bursts of excitement alternating with twenty-minute stretches of tedium and irritation. Imagine Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, fine actors both, stranded in this wasteland with no characters to play, forced to dodge ridiculous subplots and laughable psychological backstories in addition to the (admittedly very impressive) computer-generated tornadoes. Imagine further that this movie's cast includes -- in a significant supporting role, mind you -- Jami Gertz, repulsive star of a host of bad 80's movies beginning with the letter 'L' (The Lost Boys, Less Than Zero, Listen to Me). Imagine, unless you fear that doing so may give you a terrible headache, a film that demonstrates in every frame that everyone involved in making it cared more about the special effects than about the narrative those effects should theoretically have supported. Then do yourself a favor. Head for the storm cellar, and don't come out again until September.