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By Michael Calleri

If you've been paying attention, earlier this year we had the comic book-derived "The Green Hornet," which failed to hit $100 million at the North American box office, although it earned higher than that important milestone in foreign markets.

I should point out that when it comes to movie grosses, Canada is not considered a foreign source of income for the studios. In fact, only 43.4 percent of the film's total box office take came from the United States and our neighbor to the north. "The Green Hornet" didn't exactly light up the sky.

Perhaps moviegoers around the world were more easily able to accept a badly miscast Seth Rogen as a crime fighter.

Now we've got "Green Lantern," an adaptation of yet another comic book superhero, this one from DC Comics. Curiously, there's no "the" before the word green.

The movie isn't as compelling as it should be, and some of the fault for its ultimate failure lies with star Ryan Reynolds, who I'm sure is a nice enough guy. The problem is that his ab-perfect, sculptured-pecs body is so gym-toned, so engineered for fitness-magazine covers, that it serves to make the green costume he occasionally wears look like an outfit for a pleasant Halloween evening in West Hollywood.

During every scene in which Reynolds struts around, either in the Green Lantern get-up or in his Marlon Brando-as-Stanley Kowalski sleeveless T-shirt, you look at the screen and wonder, hmmm, how many crunches did it take for him to get that look?

Of course, if he could act, his muscles wouldn't matter. You'd be paying attention to what his character's doing and how he's advancing the story.

Reynolds is stiff and bland. He never makes you believe he's either a superhero or a test pilot, which is his character's day job. He's more the amiable guy next door who's coming over to take your daughter to the malt shop.

Reynolds plays Hal Jordan, who at the start of the film crashes a plane he's testing as he tries to impress some military brass. The crash is just another ho-hum event for Jordan, which doesn't quite make sense, but you go with it because the movie has just begun.

A few minutes later, we learn that Jordan's father died in front of his eyes when he was a child, and the jetfighter daddy was testing also crashed. Paging Dr. Freud.

Once this is established, we learn that somewhere in a galaxy quite far away, or maybe not so far away -- the movie's science is a joke -- there's a planet called Oa that looks like the cover of one of those 1930s pulp Sci-Fi paperbacks you find in used book stores.

Now stay with me here. On Oa, there's a problem with who controls some important green jewelry, essentially rings with magic powers. There's also a weird creature called Parallax, who looks like a gazillion glued-together dirty boulders smoking cheap cigars.

Because the science is out-of-whack, and because things are glossed over, I think the folks of Oa needed an Earthling to rescue them from doom.

Why the heck creatures who live on top of massive towers and can clearly survive in bad air need Earth for anything is anybody's guess. But they do.

They also have purple skin and wear cool green clothes that shimmer and sparkle like a stage show in Las Vegas. There's also the possibility that Parallax wants to control the universe, but in this puny storyline, the universe seems to consist only of Earth and Oa.

A guy from Oa -- it's always a guy, there weren't any creatures that looked like real women -- is hurtled into space in a pod that crash lands on earth. He has purple skin, the green body suit and a giant head -- I think it's called being mega-cephalic.

Soon, a floating green ball plucks Jordan from a residential street and takes him to the dying alien, who gives Jordan a magic ring and a green lantern. Correctly configure the ring with the lantern and you win a prize. Well, you win the ability to disappear at will, wear green spandex, and eventually fight Parallax the galactic bully.

There's also a phrase Jordan can say, especially if he really wants the audience to crack up. That phrase is the Green Lantern oath: "Brightest day and blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight." Feel free to laugh.

Meanwhile, the nasty old U.S. government has hidden the dead alien in a secret facility run by Angela Bassett. She calls in Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond, a whiny little mad scientist who is asked to perform an autopsy on the purple alien.

Hammond ends up getting infected with the same goop that killed the purple guy. The deadly goop comes from Parallax and it makes Dr. Hammond's head grow into a grotesque shape, sort of like the kid in "Mask," or like the Elephant Man. He will become an earthbound villain.

His father -- yes, more father issues -- is a creepy U.S. senator, or is that being redundant? Daddy Hammond (Tim Robbins) is involved in some skullduggery involving contracts and weapons systems.

The problem here is that once Jordan masters the ring and the green outfit, there's not much else to the movie. Oh sure, there will be the expected movie-ending battle with Parallax -- but, come on, do you really think there are any surprises in store for you?

There is one silly fight on Earth, where Parallax is disrupting a party for friends of Ferris Aviation, for whom Jordan tests the military-grade aircraft.

Jordan's girlfriend is played by Blake Lively, who is both an executive at Ferris and a test pilot. Lively succeeds at being neither. In fact, the actress isn't much of a girlfriend either. Where are they finding these shadow performers? Anyway, Lively's daddy owns the company. Again with the father issues.

Overall, director Martin Campbell and his quartet of credited screenwriters -- you just know there were others -- don't quite master the art of what makes most comic book movies successful. They don't do tongue-in-cheek very well. They take everything too seriously.

"Green Lantern" isn't much fun. It only succeeds visually. In fact, it looks superb. The 3-D conversion is exceptional. What the film lacks is imagination.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com June 21, 2011