Into the Blue

Into the Blue has turquoise ocean and skies, pale sand, a rich tropical sun, and gorgeous underwater shots of brightly colored fish, all so beautifully shot you can almost smell the sun-block. Add to this Paul Walker’s washboard stomach and Jessica Alba’s button-nosed loveliness and you’ve got a movie that, whatever its many faults, is at least easy on the eyes.

Walker and Alba play Jared and Sam, two upstanding young beach bums living in romantic poverty in a trailer on a beach in the Bahamas. Walker, a diver with nearly superhuman lung capacity, dreams of one day making it big by finding genuine treasure in the waters near the island. To do this, of course, he’d need the kind of expensive craft and equipment used by the piratical Bates (Josh Brolin) an older, wealthier and, of course, more unscrupulous diver who keeps inviting Jared to join his crew.

Naturally Jared stumbles by pure chance upon evidence of a famous lost pirate ship, a stroke of luck complicated by yet another, more recent "treasure" also located near the site – the submerged remains of a crashed plane still crammed with its load of cocaine. How can our young, appealing heroes extract the "good treasure" and claim it as their own without attracting the attention of local law enforcement and competing treasure hunters like the sleazy Bates?

This is, in short, a caper film, but one that lacks the wit and the intelligence associated with the best of that genre. The first part of the movie isn’t too bad. The details of underwater treasure hunting are interesting, and the sheer scruffy appeal of island living is conveyed enticingly enough so that you don’t actually notice that Alba can’t act until fairly late in the film, when she looks into Paul Walker’s eyes and asks, "What is it you want in life that money can’t get you?" with all the heartfelt believability of someone reading a Harlequin Romance out loud. The sweetness and light of the two main characters is counterbalanced by Scott Caan as Bryce, Jared’s cheerfully sociopathic best friend and Ashley Scott, who is actually pretty good as Bryce’s long-legged out-for-trouble girl friend.

But the filmmakers are unwilling to give any of the "good" characters enough edge to make the audience feel their lives are ever truly in danger, and the movie devolves into a series of silly fight and chase scenes in which bad guys are bloodily maimed and dispatched while most of the good guys come out miraculously unscathed. The audience quickly figures out that the "nicer" a character is, the less likely they are to get hurt, and the result is the sense of watching a sexier and only slightly grittier update of the Beach Blanket Bingo films of the ‘60s or worse, old Scooby Do episodes. It’s jarring to watch gory depictions of shark attacks and gangland massacres while still expecting the film to end with the (surviving) bad guys snarling "We’d have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for those nosey kids!"

Good cinematography and attractive leads just don’t make up for a silly screenplay. Audiences would be better off sitting down for a nice travelogue on the Bahamas.

Pamela Troy

PORCELAIN FISHBOWL PLANTER