Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

If you've ever wanted to see Queen Latifah fatally attacked by jellyfish at the bottom of the ocean, Sphere is the movie for you. If you're looking for more, you're not going to find it here. Working from a Michael Crichton novel, Dustin Hoffman plays a government-affiliated psychologist who joins a crack team of experts (Samuel L. Jackson, Liev Schrieber, Sharon Stone, Peter Coyote) in investigating a spacecraft that has apparently been buried beneath the ocean since the 18th century. Once there, they find that it's actually an American craft from the near future containing a mysterious, glowing orb that may or may not have malevolent intentions. Sphere starts off well enough, running its interesting cast through an old-fashioned science-fiction plot that's married to some typically Crichton pop-science touches, but once the premise is established and the plot kicks in, it falls apart quickly. Director Barry Levinson knows how to handle characters, but his idea of suspense never advances too far beyond one scene in which, accompanied by swelling music, one character shouts, "Pull the lever!"; another shouts, "Don't pull that lever!"; and a third has to decide whether or not to pull the lever. It doesn't help that many plot elements feel familiar, with the bulk of the film's second half borrowing heavily from the H.A.L. section of 2001, albeit with a twist that the audience should be able to spot long before the top-level super-genius characters do. Those in search of underwater science fiction are better off renting The Abyss, or even Leviathan or Deep Star Six. Those in search of a better Queen Latifah film may want to seek out Juice or House Party 2.