Movie reviews: 'Passengers' defies gravity, and logic
Columbia Pictures, 2016.

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are two of the biggest, most popular young stars in Hollywood, and both of them have rarely misfired...until now.  In Morten Tyldum's "Passengers," opening today Wednesday Dec 21, they are lost in space in a film that gets lost in itself.

In the future, space vessels travel from Earth, transporting paid passengers to the distant planet of Homestead II, promising a chance at a new life.  It's a 120-year voyage, so those willing to take the journey are agreeing to kiss their old lives on Earth good-bye.  The Starship Avalon and its 5000-some passengers are rocketing through space, with all of the humans on-board being placed in a cryogenic hibernation for the duration of the flight.  The problem is, Jim Preston (Pratt) has awoken from his sleep, and the computers are telling him that he's only about 30 years into his trip...and any math major will tell you that that means there are still 90 years to go.  Something is obviously, terribly, wrong.

Preston wanders the vast ship and realizes that he is the only person that has risen from hibernation.  His only companion is the bartender android Arthur (Michael Sheen), who is programmed at making small talk with the on-board guests, but doesn't quite meet Preston's needs for real human interaction.  After a year of trying to drill his way onto the ship's bridge, getting wasted with Arthur's help and growing a beard that makes Pratt scarily resemble "True Blood" actor Stephen Moyer, Preston finally stumbles across a literal "sleeping beauty" when he finds reporter Aurora Lane's (Lawrence) hibernation pod.  He makes the morally questionable decision to wake her from her sleep so that he can have a companion on what has become quite the lonely trip.

There have been no pair of actors more successful in recent years than Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, but their efforts here are isolated much like their characters are.  The script is from "flavor-of-the-month" screenwriter Jon Spaihts, who penned "Prometheus," the recent "Dr. Strange" and also the upcoming "Van Helsing" and "The Mummy" relaunches.  His "Passengers" script is basically a movie we've seen before, but usually it's set on a desert island instead of in deep space.  Sadly, it is a jumbled script that starts off with some high-brow promise but barrels its way through a clunky, hasty back half.  By the time Captain Mancuso (Laurence Fishburne) inexplicably shows up right at the precise time that the script needs him to, the film becomes a rushed mess.  Nearly nothing from this point forward works, including its overly sappy, undeserved ending.

"Passengers" may have worked best as horror instead of romance, as all of the components were there for what could have been a pretty creepy, scary "Misery in Space" style thriller.  But instead, it's is a soft lump of gray matter floating aimlessly through space, a contrived story of intergalactic proportions.  Sorry, but it's a pass on "Passengers."

Grade: C-

Genre: Drama, Romance, Adventure

Runtime:  1 hour 56  minutes, Rated PG-13

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne

Directed by Morten Tyldum ("The Imitation Game," "Headhunters")

Opens locally on Wednesday Dec 21, 2016 (check for showtimes).