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10,000 B.C. 

Men and mammoths fight for justice in this silly adventure yarn, set in way-back past

Dateline: 10,000 B.C., Valley of Yagahls. Early today, a blue-eyed female child was found by hunters in the nearby mountains, the only apparent survivor of an attack. When told of the incident, Yagahl leader Old Mother rattled some prophecy bones and pronounced: "She can tell us of the four-legged demons that will bring an end to our world." Stay with this movie for further updates ... but don't expect it to make much sense or be very entertaining.

In the prehistoric adventure "legend" (i.e., totally made-up crap) 10,000 B.C., blue-eyed beauty Evolet (Camilla Belle) grows up and acquires a suitor named D'leh (Steven Strait), a poetic young hunter. No sooner has the annual woolly mammoth hunt ended then the aforementioned demons ride in -- slave raiders on horseback, which actually makes them six-legged, but then, portents can be unreliable. They kidnap Evolet and the tribe's other fine specimens. D'leh is outraged and, with a couple of buddies, takes off to rescue his sweetie from "the land behind the mountain."

So begins a month's worth of National Geographic specials as they trek through snowy mountains, jungles, high plains and desert, surviving attacks from the raiders and giant man-eating ostriches, and hooking up with colorful new tribes.

From these encounters, D'leh creates a coalition of the willing -- the bamboo people, the stick-in-chin people, the bloodied-head people and the people who hide behind trees -- to march on the evil ruler who has enslaved their various peoples.

And this place of inequity? It might be Egypt -- there are huge pyramids, a prominent river and royalty with flamboyant fashion sense (chiffon!). But the fact that the grunts are building giant cartoonish gold-topped structures for a reclusive shrouded leader, with foot-long fingernails and albino monk caretakers, might also signal Howard Hughes-era Las Vegas.

Director and co-writer Roland Emmerich is no stranger to entertaining junk films (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow), but 10,000 B.C. is the simply the same old story -- brave warrior leads many in noble pursuit -- with goofier costumes. (Or not. Shirts are largely optional for ancient man.)

The action is too sporadic to excuse this as brainless caveman-fu. Wooden acting and laughably bad dialogue wipe out any hope of a drama. And anthropology for the masses? Not likely when you've got telescopes and mammoths co-existing.

For eye candy, there are the attractive leads: They've got icky hair, but remarkably gorgeous teeth. Occasionally the computer-generated effects work well; then again, I could almost see the scissor marks around the edge of the saber-tooth tiger. Emmerich shot in New Zealand, Namibia and South Africa, so some impressive landscapes are the real deal.

Vistas aside, 10,000 B.C. is a dull slog: Discounting the pleasures of the unintentional guffaw, it offers a simplistic narrative, conveyed by mud-covered hack actors, and little cinematic verve. The final payoff for viewers is meager: Enslaving men and mammoths to build pyramids is bad; together, disparate peoples can fight oppression; never say die; and reliable personal hygiene is some 11,000 years in the future. In English, and four-legged demon language, with subtitles.

click to enlarge Mammoth problem: D'leah (Steven Strait) on the run.
  • Mammoth problem: D'leah (Steven Strait) on the run.

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