Bruce Hunt’s The Cave makes great inroads into standing genre cliches on their heads. To understand this, you’ll have to be subjected to spoilers. So if you’d rather not know, skip the next paragraph.
The great departure for The Cave is that it doesn’t kill off “the black guy” (in this case, Morris Chestnut, who threatens to become the buffed-up new-millennium answer to Ken Foree) in the third or fourth reel. Others, however, pay the price for this step forward in equality. If you have a foreign accent or are Asian … oh well. But then, athletic women with names like Charlie (Piper Perabo, Cheaper by the Dozen) don’t fare so well, either.
Otherwise, this is just a generic man-in-a-rubber-suit monster movie (bolstered by CGI for modern, sophisticated sensibilities) that can’t even score a proper Columbia release, but was dumped on the world through the studio’s old TV subsidiary, Screen Gems. (Even Rob Schneider movies get the torch lady.)
The Cave stars Cole Hauser — whom I’m still not convinced isn’t Josh Lucas, whom I’m still not convinced isn’t Matthew McConaughey — as an expert cave diver with a penchant for starting all his pronouncements on the gravity of the situation with, “Listen up, people.” This, I believe, establishes his leadership qualities.
Basically, the story has our heroes stuck in “the world’s largest underground-cave system.” Of course, it has to be the largest, because the movie is obsessed with size in various unintentionally humorous ways (“It’s really huge, I promise you,” “You’re the one who wanted to go deeper,” etc.) And naturally — especially in a movie that’s rated PG-13 “for intense creature violence” (well, no one would go to a movie that boasted “tepid creature violence,” now would they?) — they are not alone, but are set upon by toothy, winged, amphibious monsters with an apparent eye on the lunch menu. (OK, the beasts actually have something else in mind, but that would be giving away the film’s other marginal surprise.)
The question is quickly reduced to who will and who won’t get out of the titular cave. Chances are, you won’t much care.
First-time director Bruce Hunt served as second- or third-unit director on such things as Dark City and The Matrix movies. This suggests that he should know a thing or two about directing action scenes. Oddly enough, he doesn’t seem to. Instead, he takes refuge in the recent trend of staging the action so close to the camera (Batman Begins, anyone?) that it’s impossible to tell what’s going on, though the jumble of edits assures us that it must be very exciting indeed.
You’ve seen it all before, and you’ve seen it done better, but the caves are really huge, I promise you.
Rated PG-13 for intense creature violence.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke