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We're not sure why Bryan Cranston is in 'Saban's Power Rangers' either

The reboot of the old, campy kiddie show doesn't know what kind of movie it wants to be.
Saban's Power Rangers

Bryan Cranston plays a face on a wall for the bulk of "Saban's Power Rangers."

Lionsgate

‘Saban’s Power Rangers’
Director:
Dean Israelite
Stars: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott
Rating: PG-13
2 (out of 5) Globes

One minute you’re gobbling up awards for playing LBJ on Broadway; the next you’re bringing unneeded gravitas to words like “Zordon” and “Zeo Crystal.” It’s not clear why Bryan Cranston is in the awkwardly named “Saban’s Power Rangers,” a blockbusterification of a two-decades old kiddie trash show, which slipped new American footage into an already-existing Japanese superhero program that itself borrowed liberally from “Voltron” and “Transformers.” The acting god only appears in the flesh for about 30 seconds, then spends the rest of it as a big hologram thing on a cave wall, looking like he’s pressing his face onto one of those pin art impression boards you get at Spencer’s.

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Yet even with all the Cranston, “Power Rangers” is not quite a gritty reboot, but also not quite sure what it is instead. It’s a mash-up of approaches that don’t go together. Our diverse quintet of high schoolers meet in Saturday detention, and yet the script fumbles the “It’s ‘The Breakfast Club’ only they turn into superheroes” angle. The writers hatch a convoluted scheme where each one independently visits an abandoned gold mine (!!), where they find an imprisoned magical being (Cranston) and his goofy talking robot (voice of Bill Hader). They instruct them that they can turn (or “morph”) into a gaggle of loudly-colored, spandex-wearing, high-kicking, dino-bot-riding defenders of Earth.

Still, it’s hard to take even semi-seriously a pricey romp where the villain is named Rita Repulsa. Played by Elizabeth Banks, she’s some kind of alien witch who wants to destroy the planet for some reason, and the actress seems to think she’s on the campy original show, not the YA broodfest that eats up the bulk of this origin story. She’s a hoot, but she’s in a different movie than the Rangers. Each one is saddled with an “edgy” backstory cribbed from an ’80s after school special, while Cranston seems to think he’s doing Shakespeare. By the time Repulsa is leveling a dead-end small town, as opposed to the usual city destruction that makes up today’s blockbuster climaxes, you won’t know what kind of film you’re watching, or why it contains no less than Walter White.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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