Mark Steyn

Chemistry desert

Until James Bond came along in the Sixties, the most successful movie series to date had been the Road pictures with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. Sahara seems to be an ill-advised attempt to merge the two into one almighty eternal franchise. It eventually winds up with our hero and the gal running around the villain’s remote high-tech lair trying to figure out how to switch the ticking thing off before it blows sky-high. But before that there’s a lot of scenes in the desert with two buddies riding around on camels bantering. The guys are bantering, that is, not the camels, though the alleged sparkling repartee wouldn’t have been any less sparkling if they’d given it to the dromedaries. Penelope Cruz takes the Dorothy Lamour role, and Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn are Bing and Bob, and that’s where it all starts to go awry.

The three principals have zero chemistry together, which is surprising because McConaughey and Cruz have since got engaged, which came as news to me because I thought she was still dating her diminutive homophone, Tom Cruise. I happened to see the movie after watching an old archive clip of Sinatra on TV singing ‘It’s All Right With Me’ into Juliet Prowse’s ear and, sexual chemistry-wise, their Bunsen burner was ready to blow: my TV was smoking by the middle eight. By contrast, look at McConaughey and Cruz together: their eyes are dead. How come director Breck Eisner (son of Disney boss Michael Eisner) couldn’t see that in the rushes? There’s no there there.

On the other hand, McConaughey has great chemistry with himself. When first we sight him, he’s pulling his magnificently honed physique out of the water and on to his boat in a shot precisely angled to show off his magnificently broad chest.

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