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'Watchmen': Bam! Pow! Whack! Zzzzzz . . .

Friday, March 6, 2009

"Watchmen" is a bore. Sad to say, the much-anticipated adaptation of the world's most celebrated graphic novel is long, dull and sinks under the weight of its reverence for the original.

The film, like the 1986 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, follows the tormented daily lives of a ragtag band of retired superheroes caught up in a plot to save the Earth, and themselves, from the machinations of a self-appointed savior of mankind, who may not have mankind's best interests at heart.

The gang's all here: the psychotically righteous Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), the dangerously smart Adrian Veidt (Matthew Goode) and the shape-shifting blue nudist with seemingly limitless power, Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup).

The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a patriotic brute whose murder sets the plot in motion, goes through a plate glass window in exactly the same position as seen in the opening of the graphic novel.

The movie exposes the glaring problems with the original material: The dialogue stinks and is filled with cliches.

The actors do what they can. Crudup offers a certain daffy detachment as Dr. Manhattan. Malin Akerman is generically sexy, and Patrick Wilson is generically nerdy as the sensitive guy next in line for her affections.

The opening scenes are a brilliant tour through Moore's dystopian alternate version of history. This was the novel's great strength: an imagined world, rich in detail, familiar but alien at the same time. When the movie lingers there, it entertains.

But when it marches in lock step with the tedious plot, the only watch that matters in "Watchmen" is the one on your wrist. It's telling you life is too short for this movie.

-- Philip Kennicott

Watchmen R, 163 minutes Contains strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language. Area theaters.

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