Opens Fri., June 25
Why is it called Knight and Day? Glad you asked. In this hyper-violent romantic comedy, the token MacGuffin is housed in a toy knight. Also, late in we learn the character we know as Miller (Tom Cruise) is really named Knight. Besides, who doesn’t love a teeth-grindingly awful pun? Still, better a bad joke than the shrug-worthy titles it’s gone under (All New Enemies, Trouble Man, Wichita, Untitled Joint Comeback Vehicle for Two Fading Megastars). Not to make too much out of a mere title snafu, but the inability to come up with a coherent name is symptomatic of the film’s creative vacuum.
Repartnered with the man with whom she shared a freaky, Monkees-backed sex scene in Vanilla Sky, Cameron Diaz plays a babe-ish auto mechanic who catches the eye of Cruise’s mysterious rogue. The two share some uninspired chit-chat on an underpopulated plane ride; when she goes to the bathroom, he kills everyone on board, pilots included. Eccentric psychopath who may leap on couches, or superspy nobly defending a newfangled mega-battery invented by a possibly autistic boy genius (Paul Dano)? Either way, he drags a perpetually whinnying Diaz on a massive globetrot that’s part Bond film, part Grosse Pointe Blank, part Mr. and Mrs. Smith, all derivative.
Knight and Day can boast this, at least: It’s not Killers, the month’s other wildly overbudgeted gun-toting rom-com. What it lacks in inspiration it makes up for in a consistently light tone. No one’s trying very hard, and in the case of goodie-who-may-really-be-a-baddie Peter Sarsgaard, they’re not trying at all. (Cruise, meanwhile, spends the entire film smiling.) The copious twists and action scenes are reliably goofy, even if they feel more like some exec’s idea of wackiness. (Ooh, a car chase during a running of the bulls!)
Every now and then traces of true wit pop up. In one sequence, Cruise drugs Diaz, and she keeps fading in and out, awake long enough to see that they’re in a dangerous situation but not long enough to see the death-defying way Cruise gets them out of it. It’s a clever idea, reminiscent of the hilarious missing reels in Grindhouse . But why is it only theoretically funny and not viscerally funny? It could be timing, which is always slightly off in Knight and Day. But it’s also the writing, which is never more than pedestrian and whose dialogue never approaches sparkling or memorable. A $95 million budget and they couldn’t afford a dialogue punch-up by Bruce Vilanch?