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Labor Pains: Push is purely work for moviegoers

We told you Dakota Fanning's cute days were limited.During the closing credits for Push, a sci-fi lark with an incoherent plot, boring action sequences and


We told you Dakota Fanning's cute days were limited.During the closing credits for Push, a sci-fi lark with an incoherent plot, boring action sequences and listless dialogue, I felt like I was being given a list of people to blame. Though I know they cannot all be held responsible for this movie's failures, the smart ones would have picked a pseudonym.

Push is a little like reading an Encyclopedia Brown book, except the ending pages have been ripped out and most of the mystery's clues are covered in graffiti and fecal stains. The movie stars Chris Evans (the fiery dude from Fantastic Four) and Dakota Fanning as Nick and Cassie, young superheroes blessed with, respectively, telekinetic and clairvoyant superpowers. These powers make them targets for government capture and control by a badass agent and "pusher", played by Djimon Hounsou, virtually the only adult in the film. Luckily, Nick and Cassie are not alone. An entire race of humans with these rare abilities walks the earth. Think X-Men without the sideburns.
The superhero talents vary. The "movers" control things like chairs and guns, the "watchers" know things before they happen, and the "pushers" control people by hacking into their brains. And some have the power to scream loud enough to break glass and burst blood vessels. There seems to be no other purpose for that last group, apart from nudging audience members awake every 25 minutes or so.

Evans plays the son of a super-awesome "mover," and Fanning plays the daughter of a super-awesome "watcher." Both of them are haunted by the legacy of their parents and are hiding out in Hong Kong to avoid Hounsou's character, and the rest of the evildoers from Division, which is the government agency dedicated to controlling pushers, watchers, etc. But daddy and mommy issues get scant treatment because this is an action film, and hey, there's stuff to blow up.

Rather than provide action, however, Push prefers to hover over Nick and Cassie as they sleepwalk through the streets of Hong Kong, and then inundate us with about 1,000 ultimately meaningless details. Various traits of the superheroes, for example, are dubbed with simplistic nicknames: In addition to pushers, watchers and movers, there are "sniffers" (they see the past by smelling stuff), "shifters" (they alter objects), "shadows" (they pump-fake watchers), "bleeders" (the aforementioned screamers) and "wipers" (memory erasers). Some are better at "pushing" and "watching" and "shadowing" than others.

This is all explained not through events, but through insanely tedious exposition in just about every scene. It's like being read the inventory list from a hardware store. By the time you get used to what watchers and movers do, you're trying to figure out how these damned shadows and sniffers operate. Then it's back to the pushers and wipers and bleeders and, well, by then, most moviegoers are in damn-it-all-to-hell mode and have commenced checking their cell phones for text messages.

Logical fallacies abound; the rookie watchers and pushers inexplicably become masters of their craft by the end, even though they were rote amateurs at the beginning. Most of the "watchers" are as clairvoyant as a meteorologist when the plot calls for it. Sometimes movers can stop bullets, even when coming from behind, but sometimes not. Finally, a scene where 13-year-old Fanning gets drunk in a mini-skirt is apparently just there for kicks. Most of the movie is flat-out unintentional hilarity.

Even a solid attempt by Hounsou to take this crap seriously cannot save Push. Audience members will wish they had their very own "wiper" to kill 95 minutes of their memory.

Starring: Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning and Djimon Hounsou. Directed by Paul McGuigan. PG-13.

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