Every bit as bad as advance buzz has indicated, Peter Hyams' long-delayed "A Sound of Thunder" finally arrives in megaplexes just in time to provide an appropriately downbeat end to a disappointing summer season. It's a clunky and cheesy disaster that doubtless will fast-forward to bargain bins at homevid outlets.

Every bit as bad as advance buzz has indicated, Peter Hyams’ long-delayed “A Sound of Thunder” finally arrives in megaplexes just in time to provide an appropriately downbeat end to a disappointing summer season. It’s a clunky and cheesy disaster that doubtless will fast-forward to bargain bins at homevid outlets.

Loosely based on a story by Ray Bradbury — very, very loosely, no doubt – pic is cautionary yarn about the dangers of time travel. In 2055 Chicago, Time Safari, Inc., uses cutting-edge technology to zap wealthy customers back to the Cretaceous Era for the chance to hunt dinosaurs. Everything is supposed to be rigidly controlled – just like at “Westworld,” right? — to ensure nothing that occurs during a blast to the past can alter the flow of history and evolution.

But, of course, something terrible happens – specifically, someone inadvertently stomps on a butterfly — and that in turn triggers a series of “time waves” that threaten to revert the 21st-century planet to a prehistoric state.

As primordial plant life overruns the Windy City, and bizarrely evolved predators (one part primate, one part reptile, all parts nasty) prey on bit players and co-stars, Dr. Travis Ryer (Edward Burns), the studly scientist who leads the Time Safari treks, and Dr. Sonia Rand (Catherine McCormack), inventor of the time-travel technology, struggle to reverse the reverting process.

It’s conceivable that “Thunder” might have been more impressive with an upgrade in its production values. (The chintzy special effects often make it appear the actors have been dropped into the middle of a video game.) But all the high-tech gloss in the world wouldn’t smooth Hyams’ bumpy pacing – by turns desperately frenetic and yawningly plodding – or untangle the sometimes torturously muddled storyline.

There are definite signs of last-minute cutting, re-cutting and re-re-cutting. And there is every indication that most of the cast didn’t feel “Thunder” was worth the expenditure of excessive effort. Ben Kingsley has a few choice moments as Time Safari CEO Charles Hatton, a glad-handing greedhead who undermines safety precautions. Unfortunately, he’s forced to wear an outrageous wig that makes it appear he has a massive White Persian cat perched atop his head.

There’s probably an interesting doc (or docudrama) to be made about the making of “A Sound of Thunder.” Pic was buffeted by mishaps like massive flooding during location filming in the Czech Republic, and the subsequent (albeit not directly related) bankruptcy of Franchise Pictures. Surely, this drama behind the drama would be far more entertaining than what actually appears on screen.

A Sound Of Thunder

Production

A Warner Bros. release of a Franchise Pictures presentation of an Apollomedia/QI Quality International/MFF (Sound of Thunder) Limited/FilmGroup 111/Coco co-production in association with Crusader Films of a Scenario Lane/Jericho production. Produced by Moshe Diamant, Howard Baldwin and Karen Baldwin. Executive producers: Elie Samaha, Romana Cisarova, John Hardy, Rick Nathanson, Jörg Westerkamp, William J. Immerman and Breck Eisner. Co-producers: Frank Hûbner, Jan Fantl. Directed by Peter Hyams. Screenplay, Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Greg Poirier, based on a story by Ray Bradbury.

Crew

Camera (color), Hyams; editor, Sylvie Landra; music, Nick Glennie-Smith; production designer, Richard Holland; art director, Keith Pain; set decorator, Richard Roberts; costume designer, Esther Walz; visual effects supervisor, Tim McGovern; visual effects producer, George Merkert; special effects supervisor Joss Williams; sound, Manfred Banach; line producer, Guy Louthan; assistant director, Charlie Watson; casting, Anja Dihrberg, Jessica Horathova. Reviewed at Edwards Marq*e 23, Houston, Aug. 31, 2005. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 101 MIN.

With

Travis Ryer - Edward Burns Sonia Rand - Catherine McCormack Charles Hatton - Ben Kingsley Jenny Krase - Jemina Rooper Tech Officer Payne - David Oyelowo Dr. Andrew Lucas - Wilfried Hochholdinger Clay Derris - August Zirner Christian Middleton - Corey Johnson

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