Rated R - Running Time: 1:32 - Released 3/17/00

At the heart of James Wong's Final Destination is the notion one cannot cheat death, and if one tries, it will come back to get him using any method possible. The one difference separating this from the average horror film is that the villain is not any living creature, but merely death itself, so there is no game of figuring out which of the seemingly innocent high school kids is the bad guy. A reasonably clever premise, if it had been handled better. But like the many slasher films it's patterned after, Destination's script, by Jeffrey Reddick, Glen Morgan, and director Wong, relies on the most freaky of freak accidents to achieve the body count, and loses all credibility by doing so.

Seventeen-year-old Alex (Devon Sawa) is about to leave for France with 39 fellow seniors and four teachers, when he has a vision of the plane exploding after takeoff. He freaks out, is escorted off (followed by a few others) and watches in horror from the airport terminal as, minutes later, the departing plane really does blow up. All on board are killed, and those left behind have varying reactions to Alex's apparent clairvoyance. Tod (Chad Donella), his best friend, and Clear (Ali Larter), a hottie who doesn't really know him that well, are thankful that he saved their lives. Carter (Kerr Smith), who didn't like Alex in the first place, is full of rage that his fate could be controlled by anyone but himself. Ms. Lewton (Kristen Cloke) is so upset she decides to seek a teaching job in another city, and — well, the rest are just extra bodies, if you know what I mean.

After the memorial service for the lost students, a curious thing happens: the survivors start getting killed in a variety of preposterous accidents like you'd see in one of Chevy Chase's Vacation movies. Alex soon discovers, using his computer, his incredible intuition, and several pieces of information he would never be allowed access to, that there is a pattern to the deaths. If he can figure out who's next, he might be able to save his friends' lives again. Or at least Clear, because he really wants to get into her pants.

In order for this film to have any effect, one must suspend not only his disbelief, but his knowledge of several basic laws of physics and his common sense. None of the characters seem to be under the influence of any of those things. The series of fatal chain reactions could not be set up by Wile E. Coyote on a good day, and the behavior of certain characters is utterly inexplicable except for the purpose of furthering some plot contrivance. Wong's touch includes tons of spooky music, pregnant pauses, and meaningful looks, not to mention the shameless use of John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High." Each time anyone is about to be killed, the famous plane crash victim's song is playing, just like the familiar pumping cellos in Jaws. This is absolutely the height of bad taste, and if I were Denver's family, I'd sue.

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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