This Bond Is Not Enough -- ''The World . . . '' Goes Out With A Whimper, Not A Bang

Movie review

XX "The World is Not Enough," starring Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Denise Richards and Judi Dench. Directed by Michael Apted, from a script by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Bruce Feirstein. 128 minutes. Several theaters. Rated R.

You always hurt the ones you love. That's James Bond's problem with women. Save the world? Or save the girl? Now I've been given the choice. Save "The World . . ."? Or save the audience?

Sorry, James. "The World . . ." is, quite literally, not enough.

Somebody opened a can of weak sauce on this movie. This is the worst of the Brosnan Era. (For a more detailed debate about old Bond vs. new Bond, see accompanying story). And yet, Bond is still better than your average Bruce Willis action flick.

All the key elements we look for in a 007 flick - the sultry babes, the sharper-than-Sharper-Image gadgets, the pulse-racing action scenes - they're here. But they're floating in this movie like soggy oyster crackers in a lukewarm bowl of beef stew.

A few manage to shine. Brosnan is still as smooth as the vodka in his martini. Sophie Marceau floats as the oil princess minx. John Cleese is even fun to watch as Q's successor, R, although underused. And there's still that naughty Bond humor and the witty repartee between Bond and Moneypenny - which has gotten even better since Brosnan came on board.

But the rest of the film lacks the luster of "Goldeneye" and the freshness of "Tomorrow Never Dies": Where is the brilliance of the bungee chord dive? The cajones to leap off a cliff to catch a falling plane? The classy spin-kicking Michelle Yeoh? After a muddled and dry beginning, the plot follows the fortunes of an orphaned oil magnate played by Marceau, whom Bond has been assigned to protect from bad guy Renard (Robert Carlyle). But the plot is inconsequential.

The action sequences are decent; they just aren't as clever as before. The opening scene, the deft aperitif which is often the highlight of a Bond film, drags. After a promising beginning with a hydrofoil shooting out of a building into the water, it goes on . . . and on . . . and still on.

The rest doesn't get any better: another tired ski scene, a silly chainsaw helicopter (you have to see it), closing chamber doors and explosions that play like a video game.

Denise Richards is the worst actress to ever play the undemanding role of Bond girl. Not only is her name dumb - Christmas Jones - but dressed in her tank top and Daisy Duke shorts, she's Nuclear Physicist Barbie, delivering the line, "I'm going to defuse a nuclear bomb," as convincingly as a package of Pop Rocks. She makes Elizabeth Shue, the giggly nuclear physicist from "The Saint," who hides the formula for cold fusion in her bra, look positively Shakespearean.

Robert Carlyle is vaguely stimulating as Renard, the terrorist with a death sentence due to a bullet in his brain that has rendered him impervious to pain. A clever premise. But the final insult is the Dr. Evil makeup job.

The gadgets are slightly worn. I never thought I would see the day when they would stoop to X-Ray glasses. And Bond's big inflatable jacket/ball (again, you gotta see it) isn't even sexy. Even M (Judi Dench), the tough-as-nails boss, has gone soft.

Oh, James. Even at your soggiest, I'd still rather have you over any other man. I'm not looking for a commitment, I'm looking for a good time. Don't get me wrong - "The World" was fun - but you've failed to satisfy me.