THE ALAMO: “You know… I keep thinking I’m forgetting something.”

The Alamo

dir. Hancock
Opens Fri April 9
Various Theaters

The latest rendition of The Alamo is perhaps the crappiest movie I have ever been forced to watch. During the one-hour siege scene--a formless and chaotic battle play--I made a grocery list. When Sam Houston, portrayed witlessly by Dennis Quaid, gave a flat, "Remember the Alamo" pre-battle speech, I stared at the ceiling.

I'm usually a guy who weeps at drum-banging patriotism and perches on the edge of my seat for any sort of fight. But Touchstone's collaboration with the Texas Department of Tourism is senselessly dull. The battle of The Alamo, of course, is a landmark event in Texan and North American history. Sitting at the pressure point between American expansionism and Mexican pride, the mud fort became symbolic for which country had the upper hand. In 1836, U.S. forces reclaimed the fort and several dozen rogue Americans gathered here for what became their last stand.

Although folklore has glorified these men as American heroes, many were actually already fading into the sunset. For instance, Davy Crockett (played here by Billy Bob Thornton) was an outgoing Tennessee senator whose legend was largely a fabrication. Jim Bowie was dying from typhoid and could barely fight off a cold.

The film nearly becomes interesting when it begins to poke holes in the folklore; the alleged heroes are portrayed as far more chickenhearted than history books have portrayed. But their dilemmas somehow never mature past a few quippy lines and a couple scenes where they stare longingly into the distance, as if contemplating either mortality or a Wild West bowel movement.

The worst part about The Alamo is that it fancies itself an epic. But in trying to cover so much territory, the filmmakers whiz past any significant moments. Like a family vacation that never spends time truly loitering or contemplating historical landmarks, the director simply whips through a checklist of historical events and apologies. Did we portray black people as downtrodden? Check. Did we humanize the Mexicans? Check. Did we show the oppression of women? Check. Unfortunately the directors forgot one question: Did we make an interesting movie?