"The Terminal," about a guy named Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) getting stuck in an airport for months, is reportedly based on a true story. If one were cynical, one might guess this was one of those urban legends that got planted to surreptitiously create a buzz for this film. But since I'm not cynical, let's move on.
On the surface, "The Terminal" seems like one of those cute character dramas until you start to string together the ridiculously elaborate set of coincidences that come together to give the whole thing that "feel good" quality. It's kind of like the priest who helps you find a path to the Lord while running his hand up your leg: There's definitely a prize at the end, but something doesn't feel quite right.
There's a revolution in Krakozhia at virtually the same time as Viktor is passing through customs, which causes the airport's soon-to-be head security guy, Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), to keep Viktor from visiting New York until his passport represents a country recognized by the U.S.
Director Steven Spielberg is far too interested in walking the line between cute and believable. Viktor is basically a human E.T., and we're supposed to laugh as he seems all too happy to be stuck in the airport doing funny stuff, like make cracker sandwiches with ketchup and mustard and make small talk with an INS agent (Zoe Saldana) so that he can pass on information to her love-smitten would-be suitor Enrique Cruz (Diego Luna) in exchange for dinner. In other words: "Do tricks for food."
By the end of the film, Spielberg has delivered a feel-good parade of foreigners. Viktor does so many nice things for so many people, including a stewardess (Catherine Zeta-Jones) in a bad relationship, that it's a miracle he's not nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In addition to Enrique (the cute Latin boy with a crush), an inordinate amount of time is spent on the janitor, an old Indian guy named Gupta (Kumar Pallana). He provides so many "light comic moments" that you expect him to break out into a stand-up routine.
It was no irony that all this syrupy, fake drama had me channeling E.T. and chanting in a freaky, off-key voice (which scared a few people right out of the theater): "Mr. Cranky go home! Mr. Cranky go home!"
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