Writer-director Tom Holland has pulled off the viewer-friendliest Stephen King vid adaptation since the Tobe Hooper-Paul Monash “Salem’s Lot,” at least for the first three hours. Pulling flesh-and-blood characters out of King’s stick figures aboard an airplane zooming into a twilight zone, Holland has turned “The Langoliers” into a TV grabber. It’s a loss as far as in-flight movies are concerned, but ABC’s got a winner.
Vidpic plummets in the fourth and final hour when the title creatures –“killer cannonballs,” as someone generously calls ’em — roll into view like animated ink blobs. Better they should have been left offscreen in the land of imagination; powers of suggestion via the actors’ faces would have done the job.
Story involves 10 airline passengers who doze off while their fellow passengers mysteriously vanish over the Mojave desert. Setting down in Bangor, Maine, the travelers find they’re in a nightmare Shangri-La where the air’s peculiar, nothing works and they’re the only living people. Director Holland, keeping the tension pumping, works the offbeat plotting for its considerable worth.
The capable cast goes through the out-there storyline at full throttle. Dependable if stolid Brian (David Morse) captains the plane after the original crew vanishes; tough, likable British enforcer Nick (Mark Lindsay Chapman) works with him to get things straightened out.
Bronson Pinchot commands a showcase role as a vicious neurotic whose horrific dad used to scare him with threats about fanciful monsters, the Langoliers; Kate Maberly’s a blind, aware child who hears and feels things others can’t possibly know about — and has a mystic connection with Pinchot’s character.
Dean Stockwell serves as a blab-too-much mystery writer explaining away lots of things. Laurel (Patricia Wettig), a schoolteacher seeking a man, encounters Nick, who instantly sharesher ardor.
Christopher Collet’s a brave youth, and Kimber Riddle plays an addict he falls for. Frankie Faison’s aboard as a blue-collar worker, while Baxter Harris, in a throwaway part, presumably is aboard for ballast.
Miniseries looks good except for those Langoliers. A visible “time rip” in the special-effects sky is colorful, if not as rapturous as Nick opines.
Paul Maibaum’s admirable camerawork is artfully composed and on target. (Blatantly ironic note: One character vomits beneath the conspicuous “Bangor Visitor’s Bureau” sign.)
Ned Bastille’s slick editing urges the action onward, while Evelyn Sakasah’s production design is good. Vladimir Horunzhy’s secure score works in tandem with the vidpic’s purpose.