Hollywood Product - Alex Rider: Operation Stormbraker
Genre: Spy kid adventure
The pitch: When hunky English schoolboy Alex Rider (Alex Pettyfer) discovers that his mysteriously deceased uncle Ian (Ewan McGregor) was a spy, the agency recruits the intrepid teen to uncover the sinister plot of a shady computer mogul (Mickey Rourke).
Money shots: Alex escapes from a car being crushed in a trash compactor. Alex uses martial arts and a big hunk of rope to fend off several goons. Alex's American nanny (Alicia Silverstone) brawls with a Teutonic henchwoman (Missy Pyle). Unfortunately, the film edits most of the action scenes so quickly you can't appreciate the stunt work.
Fashion statement: For a computer zillionaire, Mickey Rourke wears improbable pin-striped pimp gear, including a fancy cane, and looks more like Bill Gates in costume as Snoop Dogg. And don't even get me started on his eyeliner. Or his bluish mascara.
Slumming cameos: As spymaster Mr. Blunt, Bill Nighy sports makeup so pale it's like he's in whiteface. Stephen Fry plays a Q-like gadgeteer, Robbie "Hagrid" Coltrane turns up as the prime minister and Andy "Gollum" Serkis plays a scarred, silent knife-thrower called Mr. Grin.
Product placement: Ian Rider's BMW convertible gets considerably more screen time than Ewan McGregor himself. Stephen Fry gives Alex a gizmo disguised as a Nintendo and even plugs in a MarioKart game.
Body Count: For a kid's movie, Alex Rider shows a mean streak with its bloodless fatalities, including a death by giant jellyfish, two motorcyclists exploded with mini-missiles and a pair of Punch and Judy puppets blown up by a bazooka (but what about the puppeteers)?
Worst line: "He's no child, Mr. Blunt — he's a lethal weapon!"
Pop references: Riding an elevator down into the spy's mammoth subterranean base, Alex asks, inevitably, "What is this, Hogwarts?" The film also curries favor with the older generation with some subtler footnotes to Goldfinger.
Mixed message: Partially funded by England's National Lottery, the film happens to mention that Rourke's character's fortune and English education came from a winning ticket. But since the money indirectly leads to the villain's evil scheme, is that really a positive message?
The bottom line: Anthony Horowitz's popular young Alex Rider books play it relatively straight, but the film can't seem to decide whether to be a breezy adventure or an all-out spoof, so it succeeds at neither. Still, if you're a dad with kids too young for James Bond, you might want to bring them to watch some explosions on the English countryside.