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THE ALAMO

BY PETER KEOUGH

By now the story of the Alamo has devolved into the simulacra of legend and pop-culture stereotype to such an extent that any attempt to recover the truth seems pointless. So this earnest effort by John Lee Hancock probably should not be criticized as a historical but as a cultural document. In other words, escapist entertainment.

A big help in that regard is Billy Bob Thornton’s bemused and almost heartbreaking turn as Davy Crockett. He has only a few scenes, but they’re the best in the movie, such as his reaction, after receiving a hero’s welcome at the besieged mission, when he learns that there’s a war going on. Or his response to the dolled-up actor portraying him on the stage, an image that has supplanted the man. Or best, when he takes up his fiddle and plays harmony to the Mexican army’s nightly rendition of "Deguelo," the cutthroat song that promises no quarter.

Too bad he couldn’t drown out the rest of composer Carter Burwell’s score, which is as beplumed and bombastic as Emilio Echevarría’s hissable Santa Ana. Davy’s colleagues prove less distinguished: the dissolute but dogged Sam Houston (Dennis Quaid), the ambitious martinet William Travis (Patrick Wilson), the moribund wastrel Jim Bowie (Jason Patric). A pretender, a drunk, an adventurer, and a derelict transformed by historical tragedy into myth. And you wonder where Texan George Bush gets his inspiration? (137 minutes)


Issue Date: April 9 - 15, 2004
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