Movie Review - The 5th Element
Element of humor
Sci-fi action flick combines corny fun with its drama

Gary Oldman BY MARGARET A. McGURK
The Cincinnati Enquirer

It wouldn't seem likely that a science fiction movie could combine grim, end-of-the-world drama with campy, corny, over-the-top humor.

Yet that's what happens in The Fifth Element, from French director Luc Besson, who also co-wrote the script with Robert Mark Kamen.

The story centers on a once-every-5,000-years showdown with Evil, which in this case looks like a seething lava ball aiming to wipe out all life on Earth. Some kindly aliens send Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) a ''supreme being'' (not The Supreme Being) to trigger a magical beam of protective light.

The Fifth Element
***

(PG-13; intense sci-fi violence, some sexuality, brief nudity)
Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Milla Jovovich.
Directed by Luc Besson.
127 minutes.
National Amusements, Danbarry Middletown, Showplace 8.
A mass of complexities precede the main action, which gets under way when Leeloo literally drops into the air-taxi driven by Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis). He's an ex-commando who becomes Leeloo's protector during the hunt for magic stones needed for the beam-of-light trick.

Their allies include Cornelius (Ian Holm), a priest who holds the literal key to salvation, an alien opera singer (Maiwenn Le Besco) and a frenetic, sexually ambiguous DJ named Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker).

The bad guys include a vile industrialist named Zorg (Gary Oldman) and a race of brutal shape-shifting aliens who end up providing much of the unexpected comedy.

The action, which includes a trip to a resort planet, is outlandish in the extreme, overblown and packed with corny jokes. So are the dialogue, special effects, scenery and costumes (by Jean-Paul Gaultier).

Fifth Element doesn't reach the level of great sci-fi to which it clearly aspires because it has too many characters doing too many things for too few reasons.

Still, it's a lot of fun. Mr. Besson makes the excesses work by overlaying the life-and-death conflict with heavy layers of wild, irreverent humor and slapstick.

It's a tricky combination, but somehow it flies.

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