Ladder 49 review by Cinema Guru Boy

It's nice to have heroes in this world, right? And firefighters are unquestionably heroes. There's not anyone out there saying, "Oh, those firefighters have it easy, they don't do crap, just sitting around waiting for someone to report kittens getting stuck in trees." There's nothing controversial here, and as much as Ron Howard wants to add corruption into the industry, it's pretty clear cut that firefighters are good guys, and they make for all-American heroes. So in Ladder 49, it leaves nothing to ambiguity. That's not necessarily a good thing. When the only "bad guy" is fire, this doesn't make for a very interesting story, no matter how inspiring.

The film started off pretty well, with an action sequence of the team from ladder 49 fighting a fire. It had great visuals, gorgeous silhouettes against the blazing flames and stunning waterdrops from the fire hose attacking the firey demons within the buring building. But then the main protagonist, Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix), has a mishap with the fire and gets not only hurt, but trapped in a blazing room. And from here on out, Ladder 49's format utilizes a series of flashbacks leading up to this event, with scenes of the current event spliced throughtout the film, which reminded me a lot of other formulaic films lke For Love of the Game. That's not necessarily bad, the first flashback introduced the whole team, starting with Cheif Kennedy (John Travolta), the mentor, who makes you wonder why he wasn't the main character of the film, and also lets you know Robert Patrick as fellow fighter Lenny Richter is going to steal all his scenes.

But then, it becomes just too routine. In this first flashback, it's determined that this professional comradere is more similar to a fraternity, and at least half, if not more, of the scenes for the rest of the film reiterate this. This is not only clichic, but boring. And while we're talking about cliches, the line "I'm too old for this shit," was used multiple times in this film. It was cool when Danny glover said it almost 20 years ago, but now it's tired, and especially when used multiple times.

I think the main problem with this film is, besides the occassional exciting fire fight, Jack's life is just too normal to be interesting. He's professionally ambitious, he has good buddies with whom to hold barbecues, he woos his crush, it's all very ordinary life stuff. Give me Magnolia with its interesting characters and very un-day-to-day events popping up any day. It's not even very clear why his love interest, Linda (Jacinda Barrett), ever fell for him. This happens in film after film, and each time, it's still unconvincing. They went on a date, and they were just in love. There was nothing emotionally or spiritually appealing about either Jack or Linda, but they fell for each other anyway, presumably because that's what it said in the script. It just seemed too easy, and the writer Lew Colick just took the easy way out. The whole romance line was just too hokey.

As the film ended, director Jay Russell put together an incredibly cheese-ball montage and scored it with an impossibly bad pop song. The purpose of this montage is to show how heroic these firefighters are. I'm not denying this profession's respectability, these folks are amazing, but this just seemed so self-congratulatory by patting themselves on the back so hard. The flashback scenes were little more than a series of boring vingettes and the present-day plotline was dragged out and posed no clear antagonist except nature, which never works positively. Maybe I'm not patriotic enough, but the film was just too flag-waving American.

3 out of 10 Jackasses
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