When the trailers for Sahara first hit theaters, every single one of them ended with the phrase "DIRECTED BY BRECK EISNER," which produced a universal response of "who?" After all, why announce the name of the director when nobody knows who he is? Well, the reason is that Breck's father is some guy named Michael, who happens to have a lot of clout in Hollywood. The real thing to note about this film is that it's based on the Dirk Pitt character created by Clive Cussler. It's taken a long time to bring the Pitt character to screen, primarily because of Cussler's reservations about Hollywood. But Hollywood will have its way, especially since Cussler is a best-selling author and this is another potential franchise.

The end product is mindless Hollywood fun that lies somewhere between the Indiana Jones films and National Treasure. Comparisons to the latter are probably unfortunate (the novel Sahara is over a decade older than the Nicholas Cage vehicle) but inevitable because of the timing of the releases and the similarity in plot. Pitt (Matthew McConaughey, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Reign of Fire) works for NUMA (the National Underwater and Marine Agency), an organization that travels the seas and returns historical treasures to their rightful countries. His personal Holy Grail is a Civil War ironclad, lost at sea during the war. While in Africa, he discovers some clues that point to the ship, in Malawi. How did a ship makes its way across the Atlantic Ocean? Pitt takes a side trip with wisecracking friend Al Giordino (Steve Zahn, Shattered Glass, Daddy Day Care), and pick up WHO scientist Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz, Don't Move, Head in the Clouds) along the way.

Rojas is investigating the source of a disease whose origin points to Malawi. She is also amazingly hot, just like Pitt. Malawi is a country in turmoil, with a corrupt leader ruling half, and his opposition ruling the other half. Predictably, Rojas parts ways with Pitt and Giordino, but their paths eventually cross again. Sahara works on a superficial level because of the rapport between McConaughey and Zahn. The screenplay by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer (Thoughtcrimes), John C. Richards (Nurse Betty), and James V. Hart (Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Tuck Everlasting) fill the script with plenty of non-threatening male bonding and witty banter between the two. It keeps the spirit of the film fun. Everything seems like a big adventure. The characters aren't fleshed out too much; McConaughey, Zahn, and Cruz all play to their strengths. McConaughey is the hunky lead, Zahn the wacky sidekick, and Cruz the sexy love interest. The script, blandly directed by Eisner (Thoughtcrimes) has just enough intelligence to make it look complex, but it basically plays out exactly like one would expect it to.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 7 minutes, Rated PG-13 for action violence.

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