• by Wes Singleton

Review: A Hologram for the King, C

Rated R, 97 minutes

Many people reach mid-age and wonder what's happened all their life. That's the subject of the intriguing but flat new dramedy "A Hologram for the King," which has Oscar-winner and beloved, iconic actor Tom Hanks traipsing the Middle East for one last big shot. beautiful doctor (Sarita Choudhury) and a wise-cracking taxi driver (Alexander Black) help American businessman Alan Clay (Hanks) who's trying to close the deal of a lifetime in Saudi Arabia. Based on Dave Eggers novel of the same, the charming but uneven "A Hologram for the King" is part mid-life crisis and part examination of how different culture do business, and while it strives to be relatable as possible in context, it's still uninspiring and will rank as a lesser, unmemorable Hanks vehicle. Hanks' washed-up American businessman is trying to sell the Saudi king a holographic teleconferencing system while struggling with his own issues of depression, self-doubt and failures as a husband and father. Directed and written by Tom Twyker, who co-directed the Hanks film "Cloud Atlas" (another lesser but more interesting effort in Hanks' recent filmography), the film meanders heavily in the desert with too many obvious metaphors for Alan's mid-life crisis that only skim the surface for his real issues (and for the record, there's too much uncomfortable footage devoted to that awful cyst on his back). Hanks handles it all well, he's still the likable, albeit a little older, guy we've known and loved for years now, but the material feels pretty flat here, but at least he's helped by two characters that are really more interesting than his: Black's American rock-music playing, perennially late taxi driver, and the lovely Choudhury as the intelligent doctor who forms a quick bond with the American business with a big bump on his back. Hanks and company have plenty of bumps in the road here too, mainly in finding a coherent narrative and a climax that isn't so anti-climactic, making the audience feel as if what was the point of it all. There's been an uneasy theme of traipsing across the Middle East lately in films, and it hasn't gone well, with both Bill Murray ("Rock the Kasbah") and Tina Fey ("Whiskey Tango Foxtrot") struggling to find humor in the desert, and now Hanks, and while "A Hologram for the King" is a smidgen better, you're better off watching "Bridge of Spies" again for a much more satisfying effort.

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