Film review: Insipid 'Rider' needs retooling

Published: Friday, Oct. 27 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

ALEX RIDER: OPERATION STORMBREAKER — ** — Alex Pettyfer, Mickey Rourke, Alicia Silverstone; rated PG (violence).

Honey, they shrank James Bond.

That's the thrust, the gist, the nexus of "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker," in which a teenage 007-type saves the world from, well, possibly the fact that I can't tell you what Alex Rider saves the world from is some indication of the movie's insipidity.

Derived from a series of novels by Anthony Horowitz (who also wrote the screenplay), the movie attempts to take the '60s and '70s super-secret agent format — with its zany machines and larger-than-life villains — and recast it for a young-adult audience. Perhaps as a publishing phenomenon the concept works, but onscreen it's pretty dull, with good actors in bad roles and bad special effects. It also has some bad actors (Mickey Rourke) in bad roles, and, just to make it worse, Rourke wears lavender eye shadow all the way through. Why? Don't ask and I won't tell.

In any event, the plot concerns Rourke's attempts to murder a generation of British schoolkids by giving them free computers with secret viruses. Blond looker Alex Pettyfer plays Alex without mussing his hair (it's already purposefully mussed) while such serious professionals as Ewan McGregor, Bill Nighy and Damian Lewis stand around waiting to cash their checks. Is Rourke the worst thing in the movie? No, that's the other American, Alicia Silverstone. Rourke and Silverstone? Clearly any movie with both of them needs serious retooling.

"Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker" is rated PG for storybook violence. Running time: 93 minutes.