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The Skulls

Rated [PG-13]
Starring Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker, Hill Harper, Leslie Bibb, Craig T. Nelson, William Petersen
Screenplay by John Pogue
Directed by Rob Cohen

IN SHORT: ludicrous nonsense

Sometime in the next week I'll get eMail from some outraged teen who will call me an idiot and tell me that The Skulls was the best movie ever made. To which I'll reply "Were you drunk when you saw it?" (usually the answer is "yes" and I know this because the kidlets inevitably spills the beans in the last line of the eMail) and "Did you laugh at what you were seeing happen on the screen?" (which, if there was even one person in that audience anything like the multitude I sat with here in New York City, the answer is also "yes"). Net response: look up the word "Ludicrous" in your Funk and Wagnall's and you'll probably see, as definition 6: "as in a movie: ie. The Skulls" If ever there was a movie that enabled its audience to feel inherently superior to the alleged upper-classes seen in its scenario -- and that smug sense of superiority is the key to laughing at, and thus enjoying, this flick -- it is this one.

The idea of it all -- that a centuries old college secret society has tendrils into the highest and lowest corridors of power in the country -- is so fit for the conspirati madness that has gripped our country ever since JFK got his head popped that I thought, "OK let's see where it goes."

It went down pretty quickly. From the very first second of the flick, after an ominous chord of music and a title card informing us of some background material the audience I sat with was in stitches. We are introduced to Luke McNamara (Joshua Jackson), a poor boy hoping that he'll be tapped for The Skulls because he's heard that they'll cover the ridiculous cost of the legal career he hopes to pursue. He's got a hot, upperclass girl friend, Chloe Whitfeld (Leslie Bibb) and a journalism major roommate, Will Beckford (Hill Harper), who is secretly trying to do an expose on the secret societies that infest the campus (which is Yale, though that word is never spoken in the flick).

Luke gets tapped, of course. Thus begins an elaborate ritual of introduction to the group, called the Revelation process. Luke is attached to a "soul mate," Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker), to whom all secrets must be revealed, and swiftly gets sucked into the world of The Skulls, who provide money, cars, clothing, connections and even women for the candidate's bed.

Then, the roommate commits suicide. The police detective (Steve Harris) says it wasn't. Luke finds secret Skulls material belonging to "soul mate" Caleb among Will's effects. Is it possible that The Skulls have orchestrated a murder coverup to protect their own? And what would they do to one of their own, if he spills the beans? Add to the mix a subplot of a battle for control of The Skulls involving Caleb's father Judge Litten Mandrake (Craig T. Nelson) and U.S. Senator Ames Levritt (William Petersen), with Luke and friends stuck in the middle. The whole thing is so lightweight ridiculous, filled with manipulative would be thrills, that it is to laugh. Which half the audience did. To be fair, a good hunk cheered at parts of this nonsense, but not I.

There are flat out stinkers and then there are the flicks that are so bad that they're deserving of the purchase of the super-extra-large tub o' popcorn with extra golden flavored topping to go with that bottle you snuck into the theater, which pretty much sums up The Skulls. One day you'll be sitting through this thing at a midnight show. The Skulls is so bad that someone will proclaim it to be good.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Skulls, he would have paid...


And God bless the audience member who walked out saying "It's Eyes Wide Shut all over again. This was terrible," while another walked out saying "This wasn't even worth renting." Cranky says maybe it'll be fun if you get a friend to pay for the rental and get incredibly drunk before you sit through the tape. That way you point at your pal afterwards and yell SUCKER! and cackle some more.

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