YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


'Opa!' is as flat as its Greek island setting is beautiful

Matthew Modine stars in a lackluster archaeological dig/romantic comedy.


There is not enough ouzo in all of Greece to raise the spirits of "Opa!," the rocky archaeological dig/romantic comedy set on the picturesque island of Patmos. I say picturesque because every time the story loses its way, which is a lot, along comes a very long shot of the Mediterranean, or the ancient seaside village, or a Greek beauty on a bike.

The film stars Matthew Modine as Eric, an American archaeologist armed with high-tech equipment who's come back to unearth St. John's Cup, the ancient relic above all others that obsessed and eluded his father for a lifetime.

Britain's fine character actor Richard Griffiths is Professor Tierney, his dad's old colleague, who stayed on the island and claimed a little plot of Greece and its people as his own.

With the aid of a laptop and some sophisticated satellite imaging systems that we see quite a lot of when we're not looking at the travelogue shots, Eric hits Patmos' shore convinced he knows exactly where the chalice is buried.

Now this is going to surprise you, but it's resting deep underneath the taverna owned by said beauty on the bike, Katerina (Agni Scott). She's a single mother who is feisty and free-spirited; we know that because we've seen her wheeling down a steep mountain road with her arms outstretched even though her daughter is balanced fairly precariously on the back.

The taverna is also Professor Tierney's favorite hangout, where his four-figure bar tab is forever forgiven. It's really the perfect place for Eric's first night in town. Oh, did I mention it's also Katerina's birthday and the entire town has shown up to celebrate?

There is Greek folk dancing and lots of ouzo passed around as Eric and Katerina meet clumsy. It's the only way to put it as like so much in the film, their first encounter is uncomfortably awkward and not just because Eric is supposed to play uptight against Katerina's liberated soul. Making matters worse, there is no fire between the intended lovers -- nada, zilch, less than zero -- so much so you think someone in the editing bay would have noticed.

Over the next few days the couple do a lot of flirting (still no sizzle) while hotheaded barkeep Spyros (Alki David) gets steamed. Wouldn't you know, he's loved Katerina all these years.

When Eric's not flirting, he's quietly meeting with the mayor about permits to blow up the taverna, and Professor Tierney is growing increasingly uncomfortable with it all. If you can't figure out what is going to happen next, we're going to have to hold you back a grade in movie school.

Director Udayan Prasad, in whose hands this love affair fizzles, has done much better, most notably "My Son the Fanatic," which was the Director's Fortnight selection at Cannes in 1997. But in "Opa!" the premise, the dialogue and the performances are flat. In fact, everything is flat except for the island's picturesque mountains, but you can look at those for only so long.




MPAA rating: PG-13 for some nudity and brief strong language

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Playing: In general release

Los Angeles Times Articles