Last Action Hero (1993)

last action hero IMDb

This movie has a really cool premise. Last Action Hero is the story of a young boy who gets magically sucked into his favorite movie franchise, and must help the hero save the day. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a part of their favorite movie? (Well, maybe not me, seeing as how my favorite movie is Jaws. But being in Indiana Jones would be pretty cool.)

That said, Last Action Hero isn’t as good as it could have been. The joke runs thin fairly quickly, and the action story isn’t fun enough to pick up the slack. The main premise is that the film-within-the-film, Jack Slater IV, is a typical action flick. The boy sucked into the movie (Austin O’Brien) is a huge fan of the franchise, and therefore knows all the “secrets” of the fictional world. He spends the first half of the movie trying to convince the Jack Slater character (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that his world is in fact a film and not reality.

The calling out of common action movie tropes is a lot of fun. There are lots of great jokes and sight gags made at the expense of the genre, but they never feel mean spirited. Schwarzenegger is in his element, effortlessly switching between humor and violence. He also helps with the street cred. It’s a lot easier to poke fun at action films if you’ve got the biggest star to ever grace the genre doing the poking.

But in the end Last Action Hero is still a fairly generic action movie. Once you get the joke, the movie gets boring. Even the fourth wall-bending climax somehow feels stale (and not just because it involves cameos by Schwarzenegger’s estranged wife, Maria Shriver, and a bunch of celebs who are no longer relevant). The entire final act never quite gels, and limps to a finish. It’s not Schwarzenegger’s best, but it’s also not his worst. It’s just kind of there.

Rating: C+

Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Last Action Hero is constantly derided as a terrible film and one of Arnie’s worst. This is not the case. Last Action Hero just had the unfortunate circumstance of opening in theatres a week after Jurassic Park and getting swept aside by that film’s awesomeness. Last Action Hero is certainly not one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best films, but it is still a lot of fun and is one of the more original action films I can remember and a very funny satire on the action genre in general.

The film follows a young boy named Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien). He is a massive film buff who constantly cuts school so he can hang out at the local theatre watching his favourite action movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater. When his friend Nick (Robert Prosky), the theatre projectionist, tells him he will be checking the print of the brand new Jack Slater film the day before it opens at midnight, Danny has to attend that screening. To add some theatre to the event, Nick gives Danny a magic ticket given to him by Harry Houdini. Turns out the ticket is actually magic, and Danny finds himself sucked into the movie where he is the only one aware that this is a movie and calamity ensues.

I feel like this film may have been a little too smart for its own good. It is such an original idea, but also so different from anything Arnold had done in the past. He is basically satirising the genre that made him famous and I think that rubbed people the wrong way. The fact it got swallowed up by the wave that was Jurassic Park did not help matters either. Last Action Hero certainly wasn’t the only film of 1993 to get overshadowed by Steven Spielberg’s epic dinosaur adventure.

Last Action Hero eventually gained an audience on home video and has become something of a cult favourite. There are so many winks and nods to previous Arnold films and action films in general. I am almost certain the Lethal Weapon theme is used at some stage during the film. Robert Patrick (the T-1000 from Terminator 2) appears for a second as a police officer, and Sharon Stone in a white dress and, I’m assuming, no underwear. I love how this film pokes fun at itself and the action genre in general. It is refreshing to see a film not take itself too seriously, but I guess audiences of 1993 were not ready for something so out there.

Last Action Hero is a fun and original satire of action films, led by the biggest action man of them all, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Rating: B

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