Dour 'Adventurer' anything but an adventure

<b>'The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box'</b>

"This is horrible!" Sacha the seamstress says. "I have to get out of here!"

She stole the thoughts right out of my brain as I watched Jonathan Newman's dismally directed, inert action movie "The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box."

Steampunk movies don't need to present us with literal steam and punks, but this one does. They also don't need "Property of RLJ Entertainment" emblazoned in big letters across the screen, as the press copy of this movie did, either.

This dour, fun-starved pile of Dr. Whooey is based on "Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box," one in a series of novels by G.P. Taylor.

It's a mash-up of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and Jules Verne. It ranks somewhere around "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."

Young Mariah Mundi (Aneurin Barnard) and his little brother Felix (Xavier Atkins) are the sons of 19th-century Oxford researchers Charles and Catherine Mundi (Ioan Gruffudd and Keeley Hawes). They are apparently colleagues with a mysterious stranger named Captain Will Charity (Michael Sheen), a movie denizen who's much more than he seems.

Arch villain Otto Luger (Sam Neill, grinding the scenery with menacing aplomb) searches for the Midas Box, a mysterious 3,000-year-old artifact that can change anything into gold. Plus, it can cure ailments. Plus, it can be a disintegrator ray. Plus, it can express a greater range of emotions than many of the actors.

When his parents and brother disappear, Mariah Mundi - who would make an excellent GQ Elizabethan Dracula - jumps on a ship to the faraway Prince Regent Hotel, built over a superpunked supervillain's lair.

Mariah seeks help from sullen seamstress Sacha (Mella Carron), who has no particular skills, knowledge or power to help him. She's cute, but a real Debbie Downer.

Filmmakers created "The Adventurer" as a franchise starter to take up the slack in the fantasy-adventure market when the "Harry Potter" series concluded.

But the characters seldom connect with us or each other, the action set pieces underwhelm, and the makeup is so ghastly that the big nose on hotel magician the Great Bizmilla is a much lighter color than the rest of his face.

Sheen, who's excellent in the current Showtime series "Masters of Sex," can't quite pull off Charity as a gentleman action figure. His physicality fails to convince us, and his confrontations with local thugs look like Ebenezer Scrooge facing off with "Oliver Twist" extras.

"So, I'm a bad man," a villain confesses. So, it's a bad movie, too.

"The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box" opens at the South Barrington 30 Theater. Rated PG. 98 minutes. ★ ½

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