THE TERMINAL : Speilberg passes the poisoned sugar.

The Terminal

dir. Spielberg
Opens Fri June 18
Various Theaters

If an army of critics lines up to heap praise upon Steven Spielberg's The Terminal (as early internet firings hint that they will), then something has gone terribly wrong in the world. This is easily the worst film of Spielberg's career, surpassing even blemishes like Always, Hook, and A.I. It is also one of the worst films you will see all year.

Tom Hanks stars as Viktor Navorski, a traveler from the phantom country of Krakozhia who arrives at JFK airport only to discover that, while in the air, his country has fallen into revolution. Because of this, he is officially without a country--which means he must stay inside JFK until matters are settled, eking out a life among weary travelers while battling sloth-like bureaucracy. Along the way, he learns about America, finds love, makes friends, and changes lives.

This is an intriguing premise, I suppose, but it has been thoroughly squandered by Spielberg and his over-eagerness to reach for the sugar. The intention from the outset may have been to capture that old Forrest Gump feeling (a dubious intention, to say the least); however, though The Terminal certainly achieves the raging ineptness of that film, it somehow feels far more insulting.

Spielberg's reliance on saccharine is not the only travesty to be found in The Terminal, though, for there is still the matter of Hanks' performance. Accents have slaughtered even the greatest actors over the years, and Hanks is yet another victim; garbled and cartoonish, his pseudo-former-Soviet inflection is a major handicap for both his performance and the entire film. It is indeed the return of Gump, only this time the speedy Southern potatohead has been re-imagined as a frumpy and bewildered Eastern European. The results are, to be sure, rather ugly, and that's before the ridiculously untalented Catherine Zeta-Jones is added to the mix. I not only hated The Terminal, I felt violated by its awfulness--a neat trick for one of our most naturally gifted filmmakers.