I have a single, very simple goal in life: to never spend a night without indoor plumbing.
Or, as professional wit and urban dweller Fran Lebowitz once wrote, “The great outdoors is what you have to go through to get from the apartment into the taxi.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love nature as much as any non-camper can. I bike, hike, kayak and regularly fill a bird feeder. I just don’t see the need to test myself excessively against the elements and landscape.
And why should I do it, when the movies will do it for me?
Lately, there seem to be any number of films whose brave heroes or heroines are meant to inspire as they go mano-a-mano with the great outdoors. Personally, I view these films as cautionary tales.
Rock-climbing in an isolated canyon? No thank you, not after watchig James Franco cut off half his arm in the real-life tale of hiker Aron Ralston in “127 Hours.”
Surfing? Nada. Not after seeing an early screening of “Soul Surfer” (opening April 8), about real-life teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton, who nearly died when a shark chomped his arm off in Hawaii. She has since gotten back up on her board and succeeded as a professional surfer.
And how many teen scream slasher movies start with everyone going on a camping trip to Lake Massacre?
All of which brings me to “Sanctum,” the latest entry in the Nature Can Be Bad for You sweepstakes. This one boasts some mighty impressive credentials: James Cameron serves as executive producer and the movie was shot in 3D, using the same camera system he employed for “Avatar.”
An adventure-survival tale, “Sanctum” focuses on cave explorers in Papua New Guinea in the Pacific. “Inspired by a true story,” its tells what happens when several of them get trapped in an underground, and mostly underwater, cave.
The mixed lot includes the autocratic leader Frank (Richard Roxburgh), a master diver and explorer; his alienated teenage son (Rhys Wakefield); the brash American billionaire who’s financing the expedition (Ioan Gruffud); the mogul’s adventurer girlfriend (Alice Parkinson); a joke-cracking crew member (Dan Wyllie); and the mostly non-English speaking native Papuan helper (Cramer Cain).
One guess as to who is bumped off first.
The movie, the second feature directed by Alistair Grierson (“Kokoda”), features astonishing photography, particularly in the underwater sequences, and generates some real suspense, especially when it dunks into the drink.
Its downfall is its cliché-riddled and fusty script. Among the hoary groaners actors here are called upon to utter here: “What could possibly go wrong diving in caves?”; “This cave isn’t going to beat me!”; and “Life’s not a dress rehearsal; you’ve got to seize the day.” It’s as if the screenwriters had dug up a dust-covered script from the old Stewart Granger days.
Adolescents may identify with the film’s rebellious teen hero. Heck, some thrill-seeking CEOs might even be inspired enough to take up caving themselves.
Me, I’ll leave that to the professionals — and the actors who play them.