The Avengers

1998, Movie, PG-13, 91 mins

Review

AVENGERS, THE
starstarstarstar
Inspired by the 1960s UK television show, whose reputation for wit, sophistication and a deliciously insinuating streak of sexual perversity is entirely deserved, this big-budget bore looks lovely but is so miscalculated that you can't help but wonder whether anyone involved had ever seen the original. The plot is profoundly silly: Flamboyant loony Sir August De Wynter (Sean Connery) plans to rule the world by controlling the weather and the Ministry -- a hush-hush cabal of eccentric spymasters -- dispatches dapper John Steed (Ralph Fiennes) to stop him. They also suspect that one of their own, gorgeous meteorologist and jill-of-all-trades Dr. Emma Peel (Uma Thurman), may be involved. Steed and Mrs. Peel must work in tandem, but Steed has also been ordered to keep an eye on his lovely partner. To be truthful, no one fell in love with The Avengers series for the plots. It's loved for the subtly sexually charged banter between the superficially proper Steed (Patrick Macnee, whose cameo appearance here is a welcome relief) and his various seductive partners, of whom Diana Rigg's coolly breathtaking Mrs. Peel is the hands-down favorite. It's loved for its pop surrealism, mod getups, eccentric villains and slightly dotty Englishness, none of which is evident in this film. Fiennes is not the least bit convincing as a deadly dandy. Thurman looks quite striking in her fashionably fetishy costumes, but her stiff, mannered delivery smacks of high-school drama students tackling Noel Coward: Imagine a slightly less strident version of her performance as Poison Ivy in BATMAN & ROBIN. Perhaps The Avengers is too tied to a time and a set of personalities to translate for modern audiences, in which case it might have been better to just call this film something else. Or better still, to have called the whole thing off. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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