THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Monday, July 22, 1996 TAG: 9607200049 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E5 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Movie Review SOURCE: BY MAL VINCENT, MOVIE CRITIC LENGTH: 60 lines
THE IDEA OF Shaquille O'Neal playing a rappin' genie is not a bad one. Shaq proved to have both charisma and screen presence when he appeared in ``Blue Chips'' opposite Nick Nolte in 1994 (even if he was supposedly playing himself).
Something went dreadfully wrong, though, between idea and execution for ``Kazaam,'' the current film that is apparently aimed at kiddie audiences. The movie looked lively and imaginative in the trailer that has been showing for months. Stretch it out to 92 minutes, though, and you realize that the entire thing was effectively and attractively squeezed into the preview.
The special effects aren't very special and the plot itself is a mumbo jumbo mess in which the rules of the fantasy are regularly stretched and altered. It's difficult to keep up with exactly what the powers and limits of this genie might be.
The plot involves a streetwise kid who summons the 3,000-year-old genie when he knocks over a boom box in a condemned warehouse. Kazaam is initially perturbed to be disturbed from his long rest, but he unexplainably takes to the kid.
There are to be three wishes, but the kid, played by a particularly obnoxious and aggressive child actor named Francis Capra, gets involved in subplot. His mom is about to marry a guy he doesn't like. He finds his long-lost father, only to learn that he is a petty crook involved in piracy taping. (This is but the latest film in which parents are pictured as letting children down. Hollywood seems to be hung up on bad parents - perhaps in deference to the targeted audience, but perhaps, too, ignoring just who is paying for the tickets).
Shaq effectively suggests a gentle giant that would be a boon to any kid. His rapping is none too swift. He chants things like ``Romeo said to Juliet - Let's call our friends and have a sextet.''
While he's no threat to Barbara Eden in the acting category, it's not likely that film reviews, or his film job, are going to concern him much. He just jumped from the Orlando Magic to join the Los Angeles Lakers with a $120 million deal - a good deal more than will be the total gross of this film.
Whether it plays better in L.A. or Orlando, the movie is likely to confuse all ages everywhere else. Fantasy works only when you lay the ground rules, and stick to them. Here, in a finale that seems particularly heavy in firearms for a PG film, the rules are changed abruptly.
Not that he needs the moola, but he should get another chance in film. There is every indication that he could turn his gentle giant imagery into a winning screen character - but not with a treatment this muddled and hectic. ILLUSTRATION: INTERSCOPE COMMUNICATIONS INC.
In ``Kazaam,'' Shaquille O'Neal is a genie who has been awakened by
a young boy, and must grant him three wishes.
Cast: Shaquille O'Neal, Francis Capra, Ally Walker
Director: Paul M. Glaser
MPAA rating: PG (mild violence, language)
Mal's rating: ** by CNB