The Interpreter Sydney Pollack

With the changing of the seasons, shoddily bad movies like The Pacifier are giving way to luxuriant foolish ones like The Interpreter, and though I've had better times, I'm willing to count my blessings.

Nicole Kidman stars as a UN interpreter from a fictitious African country who hears a whispered plot against that nation's strongman dictator. Unfortunately, the secret service (represented by Sean Penn) doesn't believe her due to her shady past as a dissident and a family motive to off El Presidente. This, naturally, is the springboard for some nonsensical liberal fantasising about white benevolence, pacifism vs. violent resistance and yes, the important role of the UN. It's a Hollywood do-gooder's way of pleading Washington to heed international law, but the message gets subsumed in some irrelevant personal intrigue and hilariously bad melodrama.

But there's some goofy fun to be had by watching Kidman and Penn make tormented eyes at each other while swapping tales of family tragedy, taking everything so seriously that they jack the movie up straight over the top. Also, the screenplay never fails to entertain with its series of flagrant inconsistencies (key evidence repeatedly eludes the secret service) and outrageous dialogue (as when Penn instructs a shooter on how to put down a gun).

Best of all, Sydney Pollack delivers the best, most fluid directing job he's done in years, full of slick Darius Khondji photography and a sincere belief in material out of Douglas Sirk's reject pile. Art and politics it's not, but a florid good time it is, with the makings of a drinking game for every ludicrous utterance. (Universal)