Ashton Kutcher stars in The Guardian, which opens in theatres today.

The Guardian

Stars: Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Costner

Director: Andrew Davis

Rating: PG

** (out of five)

A straight-up tale of an aging hero forced to take a teaching gig after an accident, and the cocky student who becomes his greatest challenge, The Guardian is an entirely serviceable drama ... right up until it hops the high-speed monorail to Crazy Town.

This is a shame, because for its first two hours, The Guardian is a fine example of the An Officer And A Gentleman school of storytelling, with Kevin Costner in the role of an embittered Coast Guard rescue diver and Ashton Kutcher as the overconfident trainee whose rough edges must be planed down to sharp corners by Costner’s tough love.

That stuff works just fine. It’s not exactly new — as a matter of fact, Touchstone’s Annapolis covered the same ground just a few months ago — but Costner and Kutcher are well-matched, and director Andrew Davis manages to make the endless training sequences visually interesting. He doesn’t do much with the parallel romantic subplots that find Costner trying to win back his estranged wife (Sela Ward) and Kutcher falling for a hot schoolteacher (Melissa Sagemiller), but then, neither did the writers.

It’s also unclear how much input the writers had into the film’s finale, which so completely vanquishes any momentum or goodwill The Guardian might have built up in those first two hours by going completely insane.

I won’t go into the details here, but it involves a plot point so ridiculous, and so specifically resonant of a couple of Costner’s previous projects, that the actor himself must have insisted on it; otherwise, he surely would have refused to do the picture without some major rewrites.

Some people will forgive The Guardian a lot, simply because it’s an attempt to honour the men and women of the United States Coast Guard, and they do deserve the honour. Of course, they also deserve the honour of a movie that works.

Don't miss the rest of today's movie coverage by Norman Wilner and Chris Atchison:

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