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Movie Review

Twister blew into theaters with a marketing campaign that sells sizzle rather than the steak. It blew out with an astounding $240 million in U.S. movie theater receipts. It's a film less interested in plot than in sensational action and special effects. The result is similarly disappointing.

Helen Hunt plays a woman obsessed with tornadoes after having her father sucked out of a storm cellar when she was just a little girl. She and her team of meteorologists are consumed with a plan to send sensors into the middle of a twister in order to monitor its behavior and, hence, better understand the nature of tornadoes. This will, in turn, allow potential victims more time to evacuate their abodes and help other little girls avoid seeing their own dads air-lifted into a funnel cloud. Bill Paxton plays her former tornado-chaser husband who is on his way to have Hunt sign divorce papers when all the madness erupts. Ironically, his new fiancée (Jamie Gertz) is along for the ride. She ends up getting more excitement than she bargained for, and eventually walks out on Paxton to return to her job as a "reproductive therapist" in one piece (she's overheard counseling clients on a cell phone about issues of fertility and penises).

With the exception of some cool tornado scenes late in the movie, this is pretty boring stuff. Constant convoys of trucks (two rival teams trying to be the first to test their identical theory) motor through the flat Midwest on highways, dirt roads, through cornfields, in drainage ditches and over causeways—virtually any locale that will give the dull exercise a slight change of scenery. And it's hard to feel a sense of peril for a bunch of nuts who consistently and with an obsessive passion intentionally place themselves in the direct path of danger. It's like trying to generate sympathy for the drunk who picks fights in a bar, then gets a bottle broken across his teeth. What do they expect will happen?

Between floating cows, and a appearing and disappearing funnel clouds, we're expected to suspend an awful lot of disbelief when watching Twister. When Paxton and Hunt travel through the eye of an F5 (the mother of all twisters) strapped to a water main while entire buildings are lifted off the ground just yards away, it gets downright ridiculous. The special effects during "the big one" are, however, viscerally satisfying, but not worth the wait.

A rainbow of profanity originates in the clear, still sky and doesn't fade until the final scene. Mostly garden variety, but with a lot of blasphemies. The Lord's name is taken in vain at least a dozen times. There's no sex. Violence is minimal, believe it or not. Aside from the opening scene where dad takes flight—clinging to the storm cellar door after it's been ripped off its hinges—a man is nearly scalped by a flying hubcap (he's okay) before the evil competitor (Cary Elwes) and his driver get a little too close to a swirling cone. Their truck takes flight, and a hunk of metal debris crashes through the window, leaving one to believe that the driver is very dead. Then the truck explodes. But that's about it.

By the time Twister winds down, it proves to be merely mediocre entertainment with some razzle-dazzle effects thrown in to hook audiences. Don't get sucked in.

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Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, Jami Gertz, Lois Smith


Jan De Bont ( )


Warner Bros.



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Bob Smithouser

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