(2003)2.5Jason BuchananA by-the-numbers, save-the-world disaster flick that somehow manages to entertain despite its bloated running time and painfully familiar formula, the The Core's success or failure rests squarely on the viewer's tolerance for hokey cinema-science and ability to laugh at characters that are so uninspired that they border on parody. If the involvement of a remarkably talented cast including Hilary Swank, Stanley Tucci, and Aaron Eckhart makes the aforementioned complaint seem somewhat hasty, it may be that precise factor that makes their interpretations so enjoyable. Viewers with an affinity for high-stakes, check-your-brain-at-the-door disaster films will likely be able to mouth the characters' dialogue on first viewing. Though we've seen the cowardly and obnoxious crew member who ultimately redeems himself a million times before, it's the sheer shrillness of Tucci's performance that separates this film from the pack. Likewise, Eckhart's brainy scientist, Swank's fledgling and slightly overconfident pilot, and DJ Qualls's computer whiz all possess the sort of self-aware vibe that, while narrowly avoiding the slippery slope into parody territory, prevents the action from becoming self-important and overly serious. Of course, the concept of entire cities being obliterated is an especially tender spot in post-9/11 America (as evidenced by the removal of an early inner-city shuttle crash landing from the film's trailer), but taken in the outlandish context of The Core, the sting is dulled to a vague itch that is quickly overcome by the downright laughable events that follow.