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LUCY: 3 STARS. “plays like a Philosophy 101 student on an acid trip.”

12-lucy-scarlett-johansson_0“Lucy” is a different style of movie–the philosophical action movie. Imagine a mix of “Limitless,” “La Femme Nikita,” “The Matrix” and a Philosophy 101 textbook with half the pages torn out and you’ll get an idea of the film’s loopy feel.

Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) begins the story “just like you, vulnerable, uncertain, frightened of death,” but when the bag of drugs some very bad people “slipped into her lower tummy” bursts her life is changed forever. She doesn’t overdose, instead the drug expands her mind to ten times the usual capacity. She becomes a turbo-charged human who can “do things I’ve never done before, and can control the elements around me,” change her appearance and move objects with her mind. With great power comes great responsibility, so she contacts a world famous neuroscientist (Morgan Freeman) to pass along her newfound knowledge, but not before unleashing the power of her mind on the drug dealing baddies who got her into this mess.

The metaphysical aspects of the story are about as deep as a lunch tray, but director Luc Besson sure knows how to weave enough action through his absurd stories to keep things entertaining. If you can wade through the silly scientific theories there are some great scenes that are more fun than a barrel of neuroscientists. In one fight scene all the bad guys have knives and guns while Johansson taps into her inner Jedi Knight to defeat them without raising her hand. That sequence alone is worth sitting through the entire 80 minute running time.

Morgan Freeman fans might find less to be enthused about. He is a lot device, a character who provides some much needed context and scientific gravitas–does anyone have more gravitas than Freeman?–and while he is one of two top billed stars in this movie, his part could’ve been played by almost anyone. The movie really belongs to Johansson who starts off as a bubbly party girl and ends the movie as the keeper of the secrets of the universe. It’s a bit of a stretch but her performance shifts as she becomes less and less human–“All the things that make me human are fading away,” she says–and more and more a flesh computer, capable of understanding the very essence of life.

That’s right, this is an action film with a higher purpose. It even comes with its own Terrence-Malick-by-way-of-Stanley-Kubrick tribute. I don’t want to give away anything, but with a movie as loopy as is one, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that there is some wild time travel back to the beginning of time. I guess it’s an attempt to add some profundity to the story but it plays more like a Philosophy 101 student on an acid trip.

“Lucy” isn’t as smart as it thinks it is, but it is a cleverly made summer diversion.

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