'Godzilla': All Hype, No Bite

'Stupid, stupid, stupid," my friend muttered as we left the movie theater. "What'd you expect?" I asked him. After all, we'd just seen "Godzilla." Past movies of this antisocial reptile aren't exactly known for their intellectual depth.

"But it didn't even make me laugh," he continued. "At least it was better than 'Anaconda,' " I joked, referring to the last monster movie we'd seen. (We really know how to pick 'em.) But he wasn't so sure.

I guess I wasn't expecting as much. After a year of relentless hype, I was almost Godzillaed-out by the time I walked up to that ticket window.

But one question kept nagging at me: What's a fine young actor like Matthew Broderick doing in a lightweight movie like this? Maybe, just maybe, I thought, he'll bring "Godzilla" an endearing human touch. And he does. But it's not enough to save the film by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin ("Independence Day," "Stargate") from becoming yet another cinematic case of all hype and no bite.

Moviegoers may eat it up anyway. Special-effects-heavy scenes of Godzilla stomping everything in his path, shattering skyscrapers with his wrecking-ball tail, and announcing himself with an eerie roar (possibly the movie's best dialogue) will appeal to those looking for entertainment of the summer-lite variety.

And those who leave disbelief at the door won't be quite as disappointed by the unconvincing story. Of course, many of us do this anyway, especially with a movie like "Godzilla," which isn't meant to be taken seriously. But when a TV cameraman almost gets stomped on and then blithely delivers the tape from inside his completely intact camera for broadcast, it's not even slightly convincing. Or scary.

Same deal when Broderick's wide-eyed scientist meets the monster breath to breath - and he doesn't even run for New Jersey. Or when chandeliers crash to the floor of Madison Square Garden, clearing a path amid a sea of demi-Godzillas so that four people trapped in the arena can escape 30 seconds before it's blown up.

C'mon guys. At least let us pretend a little. And what about the marketing mantra: "Size does matter"?

It appears to matter most at the box office, where profits are expected to be huge. The $120 million production already made history this week as it lumbered onto more screens than any movie before (7,363). And Sony Pictures Entertainment is hoping "Godzilla" will beat the $90.2 million record set by "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," when it opened over Memorial Day weekend last year.

But will it top "Titanic"? Industry insiders doubt it. Either way, we'll be tracking the monster's footprints on summer. In the meantime, please send your comments on "Godzilla" to: wolcott@csmonitor.com

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