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'Sky': Clouded by Cliches

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 4, 2005; Page WE43

The lifelike sets and gloomy gray art direction in "Sky Blue," a sci-fi-noir cartoon adventure from Korean director Moon Sang Kim, look fabulous. Created from a combination of live-action miniatures and "immersive" 3-D computer animation, everything has the hyper-realistic look of "Blade Runner's" retro-futurism. Unfortunately, the more traditionally drawn 2-D human characters are as flat, in every sense of the word, as can be.

Set in the post-apocalyptic, toxic-rain-drenched world of 2142, "Sky Blue" is driven by the tension between the nervous elite who live in the "genetically engineered" city of Ecoban (where folks, oddly enough, still shoot pistols instead of ray guns), and the rebellious, downtrodden workers in the slums outside (where folks, oddly enough, still listen to Victrolas). At the heart of the tension is a love triangle between Jay (voice of Catherine Cavadini) and Cade (Kirk Thornton), enforcers in Ecoban's repressive security system, and Shua (Marc Worden), a loner who, as a child, was Cade's rival for Jay's affection, and who, after being falsely accused of murder, has fled Ecoban to lead the brewing revolution among the "diggers." It's all meant to be vaguely nihilistic and cool as heck -- and as long as we're looking at the rusted-out oil tanker that Shua hides out in or the contrast between the deadening surroundings of the teeming have-nots who toil in Ecoban's carbonite mines and the gleaming, minimalist home decor of Ecoban's wealthy haves, it is.

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As soon as the cliched characters open their Astroboy-style mouths, though, spouting cornball dialogue like "This is goodbye, Cade" or "Wherever you are, Shua, that's where I belong," the movie ceases to have any more hipster street cred than your average Harlequin romance.

SKY BLUE (Unrated, 97 minutes) -- Contains violence, obscenity and a bit of euphemistic sex talk. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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