The Missing Ron Howard

The MissingRon Howard
It's a thriller, it's a Western, it's a family melodrama, it's large-scale Hollywood entertainment complete with grandiose crane shots, horse chases, wild frontier gore and Injuns kidnapping white women. But it's a modernised cowboys'n'Indians story, with a tough white lady doctor (Cate Blanchett), her brassy ten-year-old daughter (Jenna Boyd) and a stoic, native-wannabe dad (Tommy Lee Jones) in place of cowboys, and the Apache villains are actually renegade U.S. military scouts led by a mysterious evil mystic (Eric Schwaig). PC Western rules dictate that you've got to have honourable natives running with the good guys, each one a warrior with a minor in basic healing powers (most of whom meet gruesome ends), and a few Caucasian scumbags consorting with the bad guys. The conventions may be cornball and the plot thin — doctor reunites with estranged dad to retrieve kidnapped daughter — but the clichés and predictable conclusions are overshadowed by the film's tight, fast pace, effective camera work, cinematography and outstanding performances by Blanchett and Jones. In the end, it's a satisfying, suspenseful romp with a comfortable family-first moral, and one of Howard's best films by far. And how 'bout them special features? The DVD's second disc holds five meaty "making of" featurettes, 11 deleted scenes offering insights into the characters and brief but noteworthy plot tangents, and three Western shorts "Ronnie Howard" made when he was a Hollywood brat (after sneaking onto a studio's Western backlot on a weekend). On the duller side, the alternate endings are just re-edits (no 28 Days Later shockers here), the two-minute flub montage is pure filler and Howard's monologues about the filmmaking process and the importance of editing are superficial and obvious, although the spiel about his background in the Western genre, including a brush with the Duke, plays okay. (Columbia/Sony)