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Originally published February 20, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Page modified February 20, 2014 at 4:33 PM

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‘Pompeii’: Lots of noise and smoke but little substance

It’s lava bombs away in this cheesy sword-and-sandal epic that should have been called “A Boy, a Girl and a Volcano.”

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 2 stars

‘Pompeii,’ with Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Kiefer Sutherland. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. 98 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences, disaster-related action and brief sexual content. Several theaters.

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They’ve been making Pompeii movies for more than a century now — there was an Italian version in 1913 — and whether they’ve been in black and white or color, silent or sound, these pictures all have one thing in common: the KA-BOOM!

Judged strictly in terms of KA-BOOM(!), “Pompeii” certainly delivers the goods.

It’s got it all. Gigantic explosions. Massive pyroclastic flows. Lava bombs cannonading down on the stricken city. Ash-cloud-induced darkness at noon.

Falling masonry. Screaming hundreds running for their lives. Even a tsunami. Look out folks! Here comes a trireme washing down Main Street.

The place can’t catch a break when Vesuvius blows its stack.

All elements of the ancient catastrophe are rendered with the most up-to-the-minute CG technology. So the special effects are first rate. The story they serve, not so much.

But that’s par for the course. Sword-and-sandal epics like “Pompeii” are almost by definition economy-sized chunks of cheese. And director Paul W.S. Anderson is a cheesemeister extraordinaire.

The man who has gifted the world with multiple iterations of the “Resident Evil” zombie romps along with “AVP: Alien vs. Predator” and “Mortal Kombat” is the perfect choice for a project of this kind.

What he dishes up here is the story of a boy, a girl and a volcano. He (Kit Harington) is a hunky slave gladiator from far-off Britannia. She (Emily Browning) is a demure plump-lipped sweetie from a noble family.

They’re just a couple of crazy kids from different worlds who go gaga for each other from the first Significant Glance they exchange. And, oh, there are ever so many such glances exchanged.

They’re a pretty pair but a little lacking in the personality department. Overcompensating for that is Kiefer Sutherland playing a sneering Roman senator so evil he should really have been allowed to cultivate a Snidely Whiplash mustache so he could twirl the ends of it. First, he puts the lad’s family to the sword. Later, he demands the hand of the unwilling lass in marriage.

And at the end, which is supposed to be heartbreakingly poignant, there were titters and snickers from the audience at the advanced screening I attended.

Lava bombs away, folks.

Soren Andersen:

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