Rated PG-13, 116 minutes
If you need an entertaining popcorn flick this holiday season, then put the new sci-fi space drama "Passengers" at the top of your list. Slick, stylish and appealing, it can't overcome slight storytelling that's occasionally as clunky as the space ship that malfunctions in the film.
On a routine journey through space to a new home, two passengers, Jim (Chris Pratt) and Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) sleeping in suspended hibernation, are awakened 90 years too early when their ship malfunctions. Jim and Aurora begin to fall in love and realize they must make sacrifices when their ship malfunctions, endangering all the other passengers.
Directed by "The Imitation Game's" Morten Tyldum with a script by Jon Speight, who writer of such hits as "Doctor Strange" and "Prometheus," "Passengers" has a lot going for it: first-rate visuals and sets, two handsome leads, a hefty budget and an intriguing premise, but little else; it evolves into the anti-"Arrival" or "Gravity," a generic, simplistic love story that won't exactly shatter the ends of the universe.
For their part, Lawrence and Pratt are as charming as ever, single-handedly saving the movie from being a total snooze-fest, as this is essentially a two-person movie, save for Michael Sheen's legless bartender android, and a very brief turn from "The Matrix's" Laurence Fishburne as an ill crew member also awakened early though he's given very little to do (but still more than the blink-or-you'll-miss-it-cameo from Andy Garcia at the film's end).
"Passengers'" first act is the best, as Pratt spends time discovering and working alone, becoming sort of a more fun "Gravity" until he decides to wake up the lovely Lawrence for a little romance, which to no one's surprise, is exactly what happens. They're an entertaining couple, but what exactly is there to do after that? Not much, as they end up working together to fix the ship from blowing up, or something like that.
Along with the handsome leads, not to mention the lavish sets, cool gadgets (I want one of those machines that will pop out a hot breakfast) and splashy visuals, at least it all makes for an entertaining show, and on that note "Passengers" is all style, little substance and hardly revelatory. If you want that, go see the thought-provoking "Arrival," which is currently in theaters, or even better, rent the thrilling "Gravity," one of my favorite films, and if you followed by site a few years ago, will note it was my favorite film of 2013 - plus it has Sandra Bullock, a great addition to any film.
"Passengers" won't be my favorite film of 2016, but at least it's an enjoyable ride for a little bit. You'll have a good time, but you won't remember much after it's over.