The Austin Chronicle

Kull the Conqueror

Rated PG-13, 96 min. Directed by John Nicolella. Starring Kevin Sorbo, Tia Carrere, Thomas Ian Griffith, Litefoot, Harvey Fierstein, Karina Lombard, Edward Tudor-Pole.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 29, 1997

The large-screen debut of Kevin Sorbo (television's Hercules) is a sort of Conan Lite: twice the dialogue, but only half the fun. As the barbarian king (who is loosely based on Robert E. Howard's sword-and-sorcery pulp hero of the Thirties), Kull trades in his rusty old battleaxe for a nobleman's sword, only to find that everybody and their brother wants to usurp his throne. Set in the mythical land of Valusia, the newly crowned Kull finds himself bewitched by the ancient sorceress Akivasha (Carrere), a 3,000-year-old demon who plans to resurrect the land of fire and evil she once ruled over. Though Kull unwittingly aids her in her plan, he soon discovers her plot and enlists the help of the crooked master thief Juba (Fierstein) and his pirate allies to “steal the breath of Valka,” save the imprisoned slave girl Zareta (Lombard), and rescue his kingdom -- all while wearing plastic sandals and an odd, crustacean-shaped helmet. That's the story of Kull in a nutshell, but if you expected much more, you're obviously not that big a fan of Hercules, from which Kull draws much of its essence. Sorbo makes for a likable hero; he's less musclebound than Schwarzenegger's Conan was, and his acting skills make Lou Ferrigno look like a pillar of salt. He brings the same sort of “aw, shucks” good humor to this role as he does to his television persona, and as such, Kull is rarely as offensive as it could have been. Carrere, obviously pining for Wayne's World 3, is the one who's woefully miscast here. She gambols about shrieking at her poorly costumed minions and throwing baleful glances with the same effectiveness as marshmallows fired from a busted slingshot. Apart from Sorbo's good-natured superguy schtick, Kull's only saving grace comes from Fierstein's Juba, a queer rapscallion with a penchant for teetering-on-the-brink-of-offensiveness double entendres. This is Nicollela's feature debut. Best known (if at all) as the producer of Miami Vice and Nash Bridges, he has little flair for directing action; Kull's battle and fight sequences are a boring blur, and the effects seem to have come straight out of the old Land of the Lost, sans dinosaurs. It's all pretty much of a muddle, and one that neither Sorbo's good looks nor Fierstein's wry wit can save. Best to once more rent the John Milius epic Conan than to sit through this ultimately tiresome hack-fest.

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