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day night 14june10 01“Knight and Day,” the new couple-on-the-run movie starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, borrows elements from “North by Northwest,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and even “There’s Something About Mary” to form one whole that is slightly less than the sum of it’s parts.

If this was “North by Northwest” Diaz would have the Cary Grant role. Here she plays June Havens, a single woman who gets sucked into a very dangerous situation. A routine flight from Wichita, Kansas to Boston becomes not so routine when she meets Roy Miller (Tom Cruise), a handsome but deadly spy whose world is divided into two kinds of people—“bad guys” and “worse guys.” Following a crash landing, a some globetrotting and briefings and de-briefings by good guys and bad, June must learn who to trust and more importantly, who not to trust. At stake is a tiny battery that could power an entire city, a nerdy inventor and possibly, just possibly, June’s romantic future.

“Knight and Day” attempts to combine the specialties of its two stars—romantic comedy and action—but it’s not exactly a seamless package.  Diaz has years of rom com experience under her stylish Gucci belt and Cruise adds a comedic edge to his standard issue action hero but the two never quite gel. The movie can’t decide whether it is screwball spy movie like “Get Smart” with bigger guns or a romantic comedy with explosions. It is weighted heavier toward the action, but I couldn’t help but think it would have worked better as a straight up spy drama without the punch lines or the romantic yuks.

It’s a movie that wants us to care more about the characters than we actually do. Cruise and Diaz are working it here, dodging bullets, exchanging the odd kiss and trying to create some heat, but every time we start to get to know the characters the movie slams the pedal to the metal and kicks into action movie mode. Much of the action is fun, some of it inventive, but none of it is really exciting, perhaps because the stakes are so low. When you don’t really care about the characters who cares if they get blown to bits by Spanish terrorists?

It could be that the on-screen personas of Cruise and Diaz are so firmly etched in our minds—he’s the heroic man of action, she’s going to end up with the guy in the end—that it’s hard to build excitement when you know how it’s likely to end. That’s not a spoiler… just an observation.

Not that the whole thing is a flat line. Far from it. It’s a slickly made movie that shies away from the new norm of action photography. Here you can actually see what is happening as things blow up and Cruise catches some air on his motorcycle, unlike the recent “A-Team” movie that confused frenetic camera work with exciting action.

“Knight and Day” tries to use the star wattage of Cruise and Diaz to sell a story that tries to be an action movie that will appeal to the rom com set, or a romantic comedy that action fans will like. Unfortunately it falls somewhere down the middle.

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