Genre: Dungeons and dragons on film.
The pitch: In a mystic land, a young farmboy, Eragon (Ed Speleers), finds a rare dragon egg, sees his uncle die, befriends a sage mentor (Jeremy Irons), gets a sword, rescues a princess and pretty much retraces the entire plot of Star Wars.
Money shots: As a newly hatched baby dragon, computer-animated Saphira (voiced by Rachel Weisz) is cute. Robert Carlyle's nasty wizard Durza has evil henchmen made of writhing bugs. There's a cool final battle with Saphira and a big, bad bat made of smoke.
Body count: Extras clutch their chests and fall to the ground in numerous muddy battle scenes. Durza takes an arrow to the forehead with few ill effects. A flying dragon incinerates an army of villains who look just like the guys from the "What's in your wallet?" commercials.
Fashion statements: It looks like they ran out of costumes at the Renaissance Faire and had to make up the difference with Arabian Nights outfits and gypsy beads. When Eragon uses dragon magic, he wears blue cat's-eye contact lenses. Carlyle and Djimon Hounsou both look embarrassed under their long, straight-haired wigs. With her spiffy battle armor, Saphira turns out to be the best-dressed cast member.
Flesh factor: Princess Arya (Sienna Guillory) spends her captivity fully dressed, but lying on her back and sweating in a strangely suggestive manner. Otherwise, Eragon just takes off his shirt once or twice.
Worst line: "I suffer without my stone. Do not prolong my suffering," intones evil King Galbatorix (John Malkovich) from a dragon-shaped throne better suited for a heavy-metal album cover.
Pop song: Avril Lavigne warbles "Keep Holding On" over the closing credits, although a Tenacious D ballad may have been more appropriate.
Burning question: If the heroes are trying to travel without drawing attention, why does the huge dragon soar in the air in broad daylight and periodically emit ear-splitting roars?
Backstory:: Christopher Paolini began writing Eragon at the age of 15. The self-published book became a grassroots sensation and eventually a New York Times bestseller. The author's age might explain how the film tells such a callow teen-empowerment story, with characters constantly telling the young hero how important he is.
The bottom line: Director Stefen Fangmeier wasn't picked for his name (probably) but his experience with special effects. Sure, Eragon delivers a cool, realistic-looking dragon, but fumbles every other aspect of the movie except some nice scenery and Jeremy Irons' performance. Maybe Eragon's lack of charm will convince New Line to let Peter Jackson make The Hobbit, which can't come soon enough. 1 star.
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