Peaceful Warrior Victor Salva

The residue of first-quarter camp item Running Scared has finally worn off. What, I wondered, could possibly take its place? Thankfully, Hollywood’s idiocy factory has come up with Peaceful Warrior, a film that takes a certain amount of visual élan and uses it to jack some astoundingly ludicrous conceits straight through the ceiling.

Based on a memoir by gymnast Dan Millman, it concentrates on the relationship between the young author (Scott Mechlowicz) and a nameless service station proprietor (Nick Nolte), who teaches him a brand of Buddhism that could only come out of Tinseltown.

Nolte isn’t just wise beyond his years, or at one with the universe, he possesses magical powers of touch that transforms the Millman character’s perspective and all but turns him into an astral projection. Needless to say, our hero is bowled over by "Socrates’” feats of strength and can’t come to terms with them until he’s hit by a car and told he will never hit the rings again. But this is an American tearjerker, so nothing is insurmountable and Holly-Buddha comes to the rescue with wisdom and medical miracles all around.

Needless to say, the verbal attempts to come to terms with this impossible fantasy ("they’re speaking… but their lips aren’t moving!”) run the gamut from ham-fisted to howlingly funny. Victor Salva’s florid direction seals the deal with loving, languid pans and slo-mo during the all-important gymnastics scenes, taking an already threadbare script and inflating it well past the breaking point.

Mere synopsis alone cannot express the hilarity to be had from its fortune-cookie wisdom and floppy-haired sentiment. The second great unintentional comedy of the year. (Maple)