Does The Guardian sink or swim? Does it stay afloat or end up waterlogged? There: I’ve now used up most of the puns needed to write a review of the new Kevin Costner-Ashton Kutcher Coast Guard adventure. Critics reviewing the film today indulged in soggy cliches, but then, many of the reviewers say, so does the movie. Most noted its similarities to other grizzled-vet-trains-cocky-upstart movies, like An Officer and a Gentleman and especially Top Gun. (One wag dubbed The Guardian ”Squirt Gun,” and another called it ”Top Snorkel.”)
Many critics were also unable to resist comparisons to Costner’s last ocean epic – that includes EW’s own Lisa Schwarzbaum, who wrapped her review by observing, ”There’s something endearing about the rugged leading man’s constant pull toward square sagas, but really: gills? Again?” The headline on the review by The New York Post’s Kyle Smith screamed, ”YEAH, IT’S THAT BAD! REMEMBER THE LAST TIME KEVIN COSTNER MADE A WATER MOVIE?”
In case you didn’t know which all-wet Costner movie I’m talking about, the nation’s most influential critics (at least, while Roger Ebert is on sick leave) will spell it out for you. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Richard Roeper ends his review by saying, ”Still, The Guardian isn’t the worst aqua-themed movie of Kevin Costner’s career. Not with Waterworld in his rearview mirror.” Writes A.O. Scott of The New York Times, ”You might have thought that, after the debacle of Waterworld more than a decade ago, Kevin Costner would be loath to leave dry land. But like his character, Ben Randall, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, Mr. Costner just can’t stay out of the drink.”
Some reviewers raised the Waterworld comparison only to shoot it down and then praised Costner’s performance. ”Costner, who hasn’t been this wet since he spouted gills in Waterworld, wisely underplays throughout. Even his Full Metal Jacket-style address to the new batch of recruits is surprisingly restrained,” writes Nick Chordas of the Columbus Dispatch. ”A decade after the commercial and critical flop Waterworld nearly drowned his career, Kevin Costner goes back to sea in The Guardian, and this time his dignity remains afloat,” says The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Colin Covert. Writes Christopher Borrelli of The Toledo Blade, ”Though Costner spends much of his time in the water playing a former golden boy in the middle of a career rehabilitation, you’ll never once think, ‘Oh, what a sly commentary on Costner’s own career, especially Waterworld.”’
Lisa Rose of The Newark Star-Ledger noticed another similarity to an old Costner film, writing, ”While it doesn’t rank among Costner’s worst efforts, it still seems repetitious and formulaic, like The Bodyguard meets Waterworld.” The Boston Globe’s Wesley Morris also saw a link between The Guardian and The Bodyguard, prompting today’s funniest review, which includes a riff imagining a mash-up of the two movies:
”By far the most powerful moment in The Guardian comes at the end, when Kevin Costner drops Ashton Kutcher on the runway in front of Ashton’s private jet. Things between them had been rough, what with Ashton’s diva-driven tantrums and Kevin’s stoic determination to keep his famous client safe from the crazed killer hired to blow him up – at the Oscars. The airport scene is their goodbye. Ashton, wearing a head scarf that whips in the breeze, thanks Kevin for saving him. Kevin walks away. He hasn’t gotten too far, when Ashton calls out after him, running down the steps, along the jetway, and into Kevin’s arms, while on the soundtrack Ashton’s version of Dolly Parton’s…”
Mercifully, Morris stops there.