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Review: 'Sound of Thunder,' smell of garbage

Movie a waste of everybody's time -- especially yours

By Paul Clinton
For CNN.com

Thunder
Ben Kingsley and Edward Burns in "A Sound of Thunder."

FACT BOX

"A Sound of Thunder"

Starring:
Ben Kingsley, Edward Burns, Catherine McCormack

Directed by: Peter Hyams

Written by: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Gregory Poirier

Based on: "A Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury

YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS

Review
Ben Kingsley
Ray Bradbury
Movies

(CNN) -- That sound you hear while watching "A Sound of Thunder" is actually audience members thundering toward the exits in an effort to get away from this ghastly film.

People at the studio screening I attended began fleeing after 10 minutes -- and they got in for free. Indeed, while the credits rolled I heard a guy shout out, "I want my money back."

Based on a story by renowned sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury, "A Sound of Thunder" has sat on a shelf at Warner Bros. (like CNN, a unit of Time Warner) gathering dust for two years -- and it should have stayed there. In fact, Bradbury should be given James Bond's license to kill and mow down the three screenwriters -- Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Gregory Poirier -- who wrote this piece of junk.

The movie's basic premise isn't bad, but the dumb script, combined with Peter Hyams' inept, heavy-handed direction, has mangled the original story beyond recognition.

The year is 2055 and man has learned how to time travel. A greedy businessman, Charles Hatton (Ben Kingsley, sporting a white wig that looks like a lump of cotton candy perched on his head) is the owner of Time Safari. He offers rich people a chance to travel back in time and go on prehistoric safaris to kill dinosaurs.

Giving his usual deadpan performance is Edward Burns, playing Dr. Travis Ryer, a scientist who leads the hunts. Catherine McCormack plays Dr. Sonia Rand, your run-of-the-mill brilliant physicist who created the technology for time travel. But her project was stolen by Mr. Cotton-Candy Head -- I mean Hatton -- and she's on a crusade to make him end the tours.

Time Safari has one unbreakable rule -- don't bring anything back. The slightest disturbance of the past could have catastrophic results in the present. Basically, it's the Butterfly Effect, the theory that maintains that a butterfly's wings flapping on one side of the earth could eventually cause a tidal wave thousands of miles away.

So, naturally, while on one of these safaris a customer steps on a butterfly and changes the future. That's what happens in the story, too; indeed, some credit Bradbury for providing the basis of the term "Butterfly Effect." But still ... it's so obvious now. Go get a hammer and hit me on the head.

Terrible from the word 'go'

Suddenly Chicago -- where the film is supposedly set -- starts sporting prehistoric vegetation and dinosaurs rule the streets. Then a series of time waves wash over the city and -- oh, never mind. Who cares?

If the plot's execution isn't foolish enough, "A Sound of Thunder" also wins the award for the worst green-screen special effects ever put on film. Watching the actors walk on treadmills with fake scenes of a futuristic Chicago behind them is almost painful. The dinosaurs look like something you'd see on an amusement park ride called Dino World, and the overall look of the film resembles a cheap video game you could find at your local mall back in 1984.

Midway through this train wreck of a film, one of the characters returns to the Time Safari offices (which are now covered in a prehistoric jungle) and says, "This can't be good." The entire audience -- what was left of it -- broke out in laughter.

If you're not laughing, watching "A Sound of Thunder" could possibly lower your IQ into the single digits. It's the worst movie of the year -- this year, 2055 or even one that featured living dinosaurs.

Historically, Labor Day is not a big movie weekend, so studios dump their most embarrassing flops into theaters during the first week of September. Here's hoping they have a special toxic dump for "A Sound of Thunder."

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