Sub out the first-string vampires and give the third-string aliens a chance on the court: “The Host” is a savvy sleeper pick this weekend. Every critic so far has slam-dunked Stephanie Meyer’s “The Host” into oblivion, but even if it stands fully in the shadow of its towering teammate “Twilight,” and even if no one in his right mind would put this movie in his Final Four, “The Host” took a valiant half-court shot and hit the rim with confidence.

The Host

Open Road
Rave and Quality 16

We get to the arena at halftime. The aliens have already taken over the world, overpowering the minds of the human race like the Yeerks from Animorphs. The civilized world has become sterile in manner. Nonviolent. Utopian, all but for the method by which that utopia came to be.

Enter the underdogs, the human resistance, in the form of a girl named Melanie (Saoirse Ronan, “Violet & Daisy”) and her kid brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury, “Little Red Wagon”). Melanie is soon taken, an alien soul implanted in her body. The other soul is evidently also female and names herself Wanderer. Melanie’s undefeated mind fights back against Wanderer’s possession of her body, and the two of them, played simultaneously by Ronan, confront an ethical can of worms. The audience follows two sentient beings trying to assimilate each other, their empathy gradually waxing as they spend more and more time in the other’s presence. As the home team and the away team grow to care for each other, we grow to care about them both. The dramatic mood hits somewhere between “The Matrix” and “Star Trek: Next Generation.”

The game starts fast, the aliens scoring a quick wet swoosh on our hero, Mel. But when Wanderer and Mel lock up, it’s a jump ball, and Mel seems to win the momentum back for the home team. This is where it gets weird. Action lobs the plot over to Romance, and Romance can’t make a pass to save its life. Romance double-dribbles the plot, and the Meyer-haters score a point. When the plot is put back in play, it finds itself in the hands of Philosophy, who doesn’t understand Hollywood’s rules, and just dribbles anxiously in center court for an hour, standing a head taller than all the other players. At this point, we don’t care who wins. We just want to keep watching Philosophy dribble the plot around aimlessly, because he’s by far the most interesting player on the court. Though Philosophy’s ball handling is mesmerizing, Romance nabs the plot back and scores a few unremarkable banks shots. Romance takes it down for the dunk, but dribbles on Melodrama’s foot, and the plot goes out of bounds.

In the end, Melodrama and Romance run out the shot clock. The movie is over two hours long, and Philosophy is the only player with the swag to make time stand still. The acting was fine, the boys are cute and Ronan goes hard in the paint, but the screenwriting treats the plot horrendously. Even given McGary-ish passion and Stauskas-ish self-confidence, “The Host” ’s Robinson III-level dramatic athleticism is wasted on the weak legs of its writing.

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