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Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
MULTI-TUSKING: D'Leh (Steve Strait) votes with his feet in '10,000 B.C.'

Past Imperfect

Roland Emmerich's '10,000 B.C.' rewrites prehistory

By Richard von Busack

AS THE omniscient narrator who won't shut up, Omar Sharif intones, "Only time can tell what is truth and what is legend." Is that a fact? Ten minutes into 10,000 B.C., and you can tell it is bullshit. Arriving at the village of the mud-daubed elephant hunters is a refugee: the prophesized Child With the Blue Eyes, Evolet (a contact-lens-wearing waif plays her until Camilla Belle takes over.) The Old Mother (Mona Hammond), in her mastodon-hide sweat lodge, communes with the spirits, and they tip her off that trouble is coming. Sometimes the mastodons come, sometimes they show up late, sometimes not at all; they're on Mastodon Time.

In this village of the Amusingly Accented Elephant Hunters, our hero, D'Leh (pronounced "Tom DeLay" and played by Steve Strait) was born under a bad sign. His father cut out for parts unknown. The White Spear of Destiny, which was to be in escrow for him, is now in the hands of his rival TicTic (Cliff Curtis). Fortunately, everyone is well versed enough in The Hero With a Thousand Faces to know Tom DeLay must first prove himself, and then go on a quest. When the village is attacked by Four-Legged Demons (Boris Vallejo fans on horseback), our hero rallies African tribes "to the head of the snake," where evil proto-Egyptians are enslaving the locals to build proto-pyramids, Two parts bad-bad to one part bad-good, 10,000 B.C. makes Apocalypto look like David Lean. It's an opera turned over to the spear carriers. Grievously overestimating his deftness with a landscape, director Roland Emmerich dawdles as his extras cross snowfields, jungle and desert, all the better for Tom Delay to discover celestial navigation. If Strait is wrapped in the divine afflatus that overcomes actors playing Jesus, he's not the usual white hero; he has dreadlocks. So we could have hoped for something a little more exotic than the heinously overdressed waif-heroine Belle—nothing inflames the savages like blue eyes!

Unfortunately, even if life was matriarchal in those days, Evolet spends most of her time in a slave coffle being hauled to the job site of the pyramids. The big boss of the dump is some kind of Erich von Daniken Atlantean, veiled in cheesecloth and pampered by microcephalics with cataracts and worshipped by sissy priests with long mandarin fingernails. They blat bugles and make the slaves kneel—opium of the people. When you're working with Joseph Campbell, though, the hero ends up as Moses as well as Conan. At long last, Tom DeLay delivers the climactic spear-chuck that, some 9,700 years later, would distinguish 300. That Campbell: the ultimate plot spoiler.

This movie is drastically short on critters. The giganto-tiger in the ads turns out to be a puss, doing the Androcoles and the Lion bit. I got roused from my crap-movie torpor by an attack of dromornithidae, I guess you'd call them, far from their native Australia. Like the fabled crunch-bird in the barroom joke, they snap their way through bamboo forest in hopes of a human drumstick. Escaping this PETA fantasy—What if the chickens ate you, eh? How would you like that?—Tom DeLay turns from hunter-gatherer to farmer. And then they all joined hands and sang history's first version of "Kumbaya." The end.

Movie Times 10,000 B.C. (PG-13; 109 min.), directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Emmerich and Harald Kloser, photographed by Ueli Steiger and starring Steve Strait, plays valleywide.

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