MOVIES: “Power Rangers” cheesy, self-im­por­tant »7C

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Lind­sey Bahr

Drama. PG-13. 124 min­utes.

There’s a ques­tion ev­ery piece of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty needs to ask it­self be­fore a new version is made: How se­ri­ously should we treat the source ma­te­rial?

There’s no right an­swer. There’ve been suc­cess­ful ver­sions of both. Ir­rev­er­ent and meta takes on dated or im­pos­si­ble ma­te­rial have worked (usu­ally thanks to Phil Lord and Chris Miller) as have deathly se­ri­ous in­ter­pre­ta­tions.

In the case of “Power Rangers,” that cheesy Satur­day morn­ing show that cob­bled to­gether shame­less mer­chan­dis­ing goals, dubbed Ja­panese ac­tion footage and san­i­tized high school shenani­gans, they went mostly se­ri­ous. And it might not have been the best call for a story that still in­volves a vil­lain named Rita Repulsa who wan­ders around town eat­ing gold.

Even with such campy morsels to play with, the vibe di­rec­tor Dean Is­raelite seems to be go­ing for is “Fri­day Night Lights” meets “Fan­tas­tic Four,” which ac­tu­ally isn’t to­tally aw­ful at the be­gin­ning as we meet the five high school stu­dents des­tined to wield their newly found su­per­pow­ers to save the world.

There’s the star foot­ball player, Ja­son (Dacre Mont­gomery), who’s re­belling against his good-boy image; the once-pop­u­lar girl Kim­berly (Naomi Scott, who looks like a com­bi­na­tion of Sarah Michelle Gel­lar and Emma Roberts); the “on-the-spec­trum” Billy (RJ Cyler); the mys­te­ri­ous new girl Trini (Becky G.); and the ad­ven­tur­ous Zack (Ludi Lin). They’re angsty teens with se­crets and zero per­spec­tive so imag­ine how weird things get when they all hap­pen to be hang­ing out one night in a re­stricted min­ing area, stum­ble upon some jew­els, get into a would-be fa­tal car crash and wake up with the abil­ity to crush iPhones and scale moun­tains.

It’s hard to muck up the ex­cite­ment of test­ing out your new­found su­per­pow­ers, but then the ridicu­lous plot has to kick in (and all the req­ui­site ori­gin story clichés) and you can see the film strug­gling to main­tain its straight face while Bryan Cranston’s pin art face bel­lows at the Rangers and El­iz­a­beth Banks’ Rita Repulsa de­vours ev­ery piece of gold she can find.

Banks is ac­tu­ally fairly fun in the part — she snivels and sneers with campy glee un­der the pounds of zom­bie makeup as she fiendishly ter­ror­izes some en­gage­ment ring shop­pers at a jew­elry store like she’s the only one who un­der­stands what movie she’s in.

But good lord does this film over­stay its very con­di­tional wel­come. Is­raelite, who also made the oc­ca­sion­ally riv­et­ing found­footage, time-travel pic “Project Al­manac,” gives the images some grit and vis­ual in­ter­est but the story just spends too much time on the maudlin com­ing-of-age and team­build­ing. A lit­tle less ther­apy and a lit­tle more ac­tion would have gone a long way in the mushy mid­dle sec­tion.

By the time the Power Rangers fig­ure out how to morph, you’re al­ready look­ing for a way to morph out of the the­ater, which is a shame be­cause for what­ever it’s worth, the cheesi­est, most Power Rangers-y mo­ments are saved for the fi­nal bat­tle.

Much like the teens at the cen­ter, “Power Rangers” goes through some awk­ward grow­ing pains in real time try­ing to fig­ure out what movie it wants to be or even should be.

From left: Becky G, RJ Cyler, Dacre Mont­gomery, Naomi Scott and Ludi Lin in “Power Rangers.”

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