For a re­view of “The Meg,”

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Notwith­stand­ing its ob­vi­ous sim­i­lar­i­ties to a cer­tain sum­mer-of-’75 block­buster about a great white shark, the new “Jaws”-on-steroids thriller “The Meg” — about a 75-foot shark — may re­mind you of a more re­cent, and en­tirely dif­fer­ent, movie: “Skyscraper.”

Both films cen­ter on su­perla­tives: the world’s tallest skyscraper; the world’s big­gest shark. (In this case, it’s a liv­ing spec­i­men of a pre­his­toric Me g alodon, long thought to be ex­tinct.) Both fea­ture bald, or nearly hair­less, ac­tion stars: the ge­nial Dwayne John­son in “Skyscraper”; a more brood­ing, stub­ble-headed Ja­son Statham in “The Meg.” And both are co- pro­duc­tions be­tween Hol­ly­wood stu­dios and Chi­nese-owned pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies, and so fea­ture Chi­nese co-stars and Asian set­tings.

They are also both merely pass­able en­ter­tain­ments, if also too medi­ocre to jus­tify their slightly longer-thannec­es­sary run­ning times. In other words, they’re not just ex­am­ples of pop­corn movies but, like pop­corn it­self, blandly sat­is­fy­ing yet for­get­table.

Statham plays Jonas Tay­lor, a dis­graced deep-sea-res­cue ex­pert who, as it is ex­plained in a pro­logue, is still liv­ing down his de­ci­sion to aban­don sev­eral col­leagues in the mid­dle of a mis­sion af­ter their ves­sel was at­tacked by what Jonas claimed was a gi­ant shark. As the ac­tion of the film gets un­der­way, our hero is drown­ing his sor­rows in Thai­land, hav­ing been di­vorced by his wife (Jes­sica McNamee) and hav­ing gained a rep­u­ta­tion as a crazy per­son.

What he’s re­ally do­ing, though, is wait­ing for re­demp­tion, which ar­rives in the form of a re­quest to save his ex and two of her marine bi­ol­o­gist col­leagues from a sub­mersible re­search ves­sel that has be­come dis­abled while ex­plor­ing a pre­vi­ously un­known sec­tion of the seabed: a trench hid­den be­neath a ther­mo­cline, or cloud­like layer of su­per-chilled wa­ter. But what fol­lows Jonas and the res­cued sci­en­tists to the sur­face — via the hole they have just punc­tured in the cold wa­ter — is the mother of marine mon­sters.

When Jonas gets back to the base, he dis­cov­ers that he has brought with him a sea crea­ture that threat­ens the lives of the crew, played by a sup­port­ing cast of mostly no­bod­ies, and a nearby beach­side re­sort filled with ex­tras. (Hey, ac­tion movies are ex­pen­sive. That money that gets poured into spe­cial ef­fects? It comes out of pay­roll.)

One of the more fa­mil­iar faces is Rainn Wil­son, who serves a dual pur­pose as the cyn­i­cal, money-grub­bing bil­lion­aire who has fi­nanced the sci­ence sta­tion on which much of the ac­tion is set: comic re­lief and, later, some­one to root against when the shark starts look­ing for hu­man chum.

Di­rected by Jon Turteltaub (“Na­tional Trea­sure”), from a screen­play adapted from Steve Al­ten’s 1997 book, “The Meg” takes its sweet time get­ting go­ing, and doesn’t re­ally start de­liv­er­ing on the ex­pected thrills and chills un­til a scene in which Jonas, teth­ered by ca­ble to a ship, dives into the ocean — with, in­ex­pli­ca­bly, no shark cage — to shoot a track­ing de­vice into the fin of the tit­u­lar beastie. Af­ter the shark gets mad, and starts pursu- ing him, he be­comes a piece of de facto bait, be­ing reeled in as the Me­ga­lodon’s fin gets closer and closer.

What fol­lows is a se­ries of in­creas­ingly close calls, in­ter­cut with the afore­men­tioned com­edy — a lit­tle too much of that, if you ask me — and scenes cen­ter­ing on the bud­ding ro­mance be­tween Jonas and a fe­male sci­en­tist, played by Chi­nese ac­tress Bing­bing Li. Li’s ap­par­ent dis­com­fort with her English di­a­logue lends her char­ac­ter an awk­ward stiff­ness ( but then again, most of the char­ac­ters are card­board, mak­ing it hard to care who gets eaten and who doesn’t).

Un­like his ac­tion-movie ri­val John­son, Statham does not have the charisma to carry this film. He gets the job done all right, but makes it feel more like work than play.

“The Meg,” a War ner Bros. re­lease, is rated PG-13 for ac­tion, peril, bloody images and some coarse lan­guage. Run­ning time: 113 min­utes.

“Dog Days”

“Dog Days,” an om­nibus com­edy about the unique abil­ity of dogs to con­nect us to oth­ers and our­selves, is the kind of mildly amus­ing, pan­der­ing film that shows up in movie the­aters at ran­dom times through­out the year when noth­ing else no­table is play­ing and peo­ple are will­ing to watch just about any­thing. Yet it still achieves some mo­ments of gen­uine sweet­ness. It’s a film about dogs, af­ter all, our col­lec­tive best friend.

Direc­tor Ken Marino works from a script by Elissa Mat­sueda and Erica Oyama that’s essen­tially mashed to­gether bits of sto­ries that wouldn’t sus­tain a whole film on their own. There’s the up­tight morn­ing news an­chor, El­iz­a­beth ( Nina Do­brev), who warms to her new co-host, Jimmy (Tone Bell), when their pups bond. There’s the win­some barista, Tara ( Vanessa Hud­gens), caught in a love tri­an­gle with a hunky vet, Dr. Mike (Michael Cas­sidy), and an al­tru­is­tic but nerdy dog res­cue cen­ter owner, Gar­rett (Jon Bass). A stoner mu­si­cian, Dax ( Adam Pally), learns about re­spon­si­bil­ity when his sis­ter (Jes­sica St. Clair) needs him to watch her pooch while she moth­ers her new­born twins.

In per­haps the most heart­warm­ing sub­plot, Tyler (Finn Wolfhard) be­friends a lonely older man ( Ron Cephas Jones) who has lost his beloved pug, Ma­bel. The way­ward pup ends up with the Chap­man fam­ily (Eva Lon­go­ria and Rob Corddry), who are learn­ing to live and love to­gether with the new ad­di­tion of adopted daugh­ter Amelia (El­iz­a­beth Phoenix Caro), and Ma­bel proves the nec­es­sary glue.

All th­ese are wisps of tales, so they’re loosely stitched to­gether — Tara and Dax live in the same apart- ment build­ing; Dr. Mike is seem­ingly the only vet in town, and when the res­cue cen­ter has a fundraiser for their new fa­cil­ity, all the dog lovers col­lide. But there’s no real twisty plot­ting magic at play. Th­ese are just the kinds of small world, city-liv­ing con­nec­tions that oc­cur or­gan­i­cally.

The script for “Dog Days” gets off to a very rocky start, with some painfully out­dated gen­der-based jokes. In fact, it opens on the re­peated mis­gen­der­ing of dog ther­a­pist Danielle (Tig No­taro), which is played like a slap­stick rou­tine, and sim­ply doesn’t land. The un­funny het­eronor­ma­tive jokes con­tinue through­out the char­ac­ter in­tro­duc­tions, re­ly­ing on cheap gay panic laughs from jokes about men find­ing other men at­trac­tive.

The film rights it­self only when it starts get­ting se­ri­ously weird, and Marino’s alt- com­edy roots start to shine through. David Wain ap­pears as a la­conic clown, while John Gem­ber­ling, com­pletely un­der­used as a vet tech, gets his mo­ment, belt­ing out an un­war­ranted but heart­felt “Amaz­ing Grace.” Veteran co­me­di­ans like Pally, St. Clair and even Bass get some great ad libs and one-lin­ers, which add tex­ture to the other­wise bland and placid sur­face.

“Dog Days” is in some ways a very strange movie, in the way it strad­dles the worlds of weirdo com­edy and fam­ily-friendly fare. But ul­ti­mately, it’s the pooches who steal the show, from the in­creas­ingly ac­ces­sorized Chi­huahua Gertrude, to best friends Sam and Brandy, and fi­nally, to Ma­bel the pug, whose abil­ity to mend just about any bro­ken heart makes her quite the unique dog in­deed. When th­ese furry friends are able liven up the dol­drums of “Dog Days,” it fi­nally proves the film worth­while.

“Dog Days,” a LD En­ter­tain­ment re­lease, is rated PG for rude and sug­ges­tive con­tent, and for lan­guage. Run­ning time: 112 min­utes.


“Dog Days” stars, from left, Eva Lon­go­ria as Grace, El­iz­a­beth Caro as Amelia and Rob Corddry as Kurt.

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