By Val Ulicki   Published Jul 27, 2003 at 5:34 AM

If you ever found yourself lying awake at night wondering what would happen if "Raiders of the Lost Arc," "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," and any number of 007 James Bond movies were combined into one really bad video game-inspired movie, then you'll thank Paramount Pictures for finally allowing you to get some sleep.

Everyone else will most likely be very disappointed in this second installment of the Lara Croft series.

Reprising her 2001 role from "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," Angelina Jolie steps out once again as the video gaming world's most celebrated action heroine. Gerard Butler appears along side her as Terry Sheridan, Lara's one and only true love recruited from her past to help save the world. These two spend most of the movie traveling from one place to another, fighting off bad guys, trying to keep the most terrible plague on earth out of evil's hands. Those hands are supplied by Jonathan Reiss (Ciarán Hinds) and his various henchmen.

Long ago, there were two boxes: one containing life, the other, death. The first box was opened and all life on earth came forth. At various points in history, the death box, also known as "Pandora's Box," was opened and wiped out most of the planet's population each time. To prevent this from happening again Alexander the Great hid the box in "The Cradle of Life," a secret location which can only be found using a cryptic map located in his specially constructed Temple of the Moon.

Reiss hopes to find Pandora's Box so he can sell it. Since he earns his living peddling genetically modified super germs to certain disruptive political factions it seems to fit in nicely with his overall career goals. It is Laura Croft's job to stop him, and she does so with a pointed determination equaled only by the pointiness of the prosthetic nipples which she prominently displays through most of the movie's 116 minutes.

When the heroes are not escaping from yet another cleverly laid trap they are usually either traveling or breaking glass. They are conveyed by, among other means, jet ski, several boats, parachutes, stealth plane, airplanes, motorcycles, jeep, helicopters, horses, and sky diving. All that traveling becomes tedious when the story moves around in Greece, Kenya, Hong Kong, Tanzania, China, Kazakhstan and several other locations. As far as the glass goes, there really is no reason to shatter so much other than to employ more grips to sweep up after each scene and thereby boost Hollywood's economy.

The major overall flaw with this movie is the slapped-together feel it has, almost as if the director (Jan de Bont) realized he had neither the time nor the money to put together the movie he really wanted. The visual effects are an especially good indicator of that "rushed" sense. Early on you are introduced to a sort of pixilated, jerky, slow-motion effect that left many in the theatre wondering out loud if something had gone wrong with the projector. The underwater CGI creatures are also far less convincingly real than in, say, Disney Pixar's "Finding Nemo."

The plot is extremely thin, too. If you've seen the Indiana Jones movies you will know what is going to happen next, right down to the villain melting after touching the sacred religious artifact at the end of the movie. Fellow Brit James Bond would even have a hard time believing some of the stunts and gadgets employed by Croft and her team.

Many other things will leave you scratching your head, like why didn't Croft think of flying a helicopter across a field of horribly dangerous monsters like her geeky side-kick / tech support guys Bryce (Noah Taylo) and Hillary (Christopher Barrie) did to reach the "Cradle of Life?" And why does bad guy Chen Lo (Simon Yam) get so upset when, in his fight to the death with Croft, she throws two bamboo sticks at him but only apparently slightly rips his shirt?

Overall this movie is not worth paying to see at the cinema. It may not even be worth the rental fee, unless you invite many people over and use the time to sharpen your Mystery Science Theatre 3000-esque criticism skills.


"Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life" is now playing in theaters everywhere.