A stereotypical biopic, Amelia fails to launch

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The only good thing about the otherwise dreadful Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian that came out earlier this year was Amy Adams’ zippy performance as a fast-talking, 1920s-era-slang-hurling Amelia Earhart. I doubt that either the screenwriters or Adams spent much time researching Earhart’s speech patterns or nailing down the details of her life. The same can’t be said for director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) and Hilary Swank, who plays the ill-fated aviation pioneer in the straightforward biopic Amelia. In their fussy period film, Earhart’s adult life plays out as a series of career and gender accomplishments. Swank is good as the fly girl (a media sensation in her day) — intense, stoic and determined in everything she does. But the movie sinks under its seriousness, emphasizing Earhart’s proto-feminist status every step of the way: first woman to do this, a woman who can do that, etc. But much of this seems shoehorned into a blah story that needs a little emblematic boost. Plus, Nair drowns nearly every semi-pivotal scene in inflated significance. Though some tension is built during Earhart’s final flight, there isn’t much drama here (you know how the story ends, right?). Amelia comes off like an old-school Hollywood biopic: a little bit corny, sorta self-serious and emotionally stagnant. You’d think the most exciting thing Earhart ever did was to disappear. ** 1/2

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