Eastern European Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks), through some bureaucratic snafu, ends up stuck in JFK's international terminal in this marginally sappy, light comedy from Steven Spielberg. Viktor befriends various airport workers, and makes a new life for himself at Gate 67. The best parts of the film unearth the alternate reality of the terminal's work areas, illuminating the strange bonds disparate people form in work situations and the real humor in how employees creatively re-order what is an unpleasant but inescapable physical environment. (That said, some of Victor's creative re-arranging at the terminal has aspects of Home Alone
-- more rooted in movie fantasy than reality.) Spielberg seems to abdicate any opportunity to provide any sharper satire -- whether about the current draconian state of security or the fact that the airport has become a consumer paradise, hence totally livable. They built a fantastic set for this film, but the milieu, while crowd-packed, lacks the frantic urgency of a real airport: It feels as if Viktor is trapped in a mall. Hanks manages to portray a dumb, likable character without succumbing to parody, though the film easily puts him through 30 extra minutes of paces. And don't expect any masterful Speilberg work here: The Terminal
is competently directed, but the film's several endings were each depicted with the sort of pedestrian literalness I'd expect from a recent film-school graduate. Starts Fri., June 18.