Schwarzenegger Lead a Merry Dance
I once read a review of "Last Action Hero" where the critic was disappointed because it sucked as an action movie, which immediately made me question whether the critic missed the point. You see "Last Action Hero" is actually quite a clever movie as it basically pokes fun at the action movie genre and it has Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mr. Action, at the centre of it. Its self depreciating humour, drawing on many action movies, featuring a ton of cameos and with Arnie basically playing a cheesy character you would see him play in a normal action movie ends up being even funnier because the wise cracks end up being funny rather than cheesy. Yes the action side of it is not that impressive but it does have a few good set pieces which complement the humour nicely.
Young Danny Madigan (Austin O'Brien - Apollo 13) is the biggest Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger - Terminator 2: Judgment Day) fan, he's seen all the movies several times and can't wait for Jack Slater IV to come out. So when kindly old projectionist Nick (Robert Prosky) invites him to a secret test screening of the movie he is over the moon and to make it even more special Nick gives him a magic ticket which supposedly came from Houdini. Well Danny soon discovers how magical the ticket is when he is suddenly whisked away into the actual movie and in the middle of a Jack Slater chase and with the problem of how to explain who he is and how he got there.
Now to be frank the story to "Last Action Hero" isn't important or at least it's not the main element which drives the movie. Having said that the possibilities which arise from young Danny having a magic ticket which can take you into an actual movie is good fun. And that is what the story is because as we have Jack Slater going after a bad guy called Benedict for the murder of his favourite cousin and coming from the movie world and into the real world is amusing especially with Benedict using the power of the ticket to bring back baddies from other movies.
But as I said the driving force of "Last Action Hero" isn't so much this storyline but all the self depreciating humour and it is jam packed full of it. You have Danny poking fun at Slater because he always says "I'll be back" and also pointing out how his movies are both daft and predictable as the 4th movie is being released. Then throw in some switches in the movie world such as advertising for Terminator 2 but starring Sylvester Stallone and it is actually amusingly clever. And there is a lot more from a screaming chief of police through to a mickey take of "Lethal Weapon" you literally are spoilt for choice at all the in-jokes and mickey takes.
Part of this fun actually comes from the long list of celebrities who make brief appearances or are in supporting roles. Cameos from Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Jean-Claude Van Damme and James Belushi are all good fun as are those from Joan Plowright, Tina Turner and Ian McKellen who have a bit more to do that just show up in a shot. But of course at the centre of this you have Arnold Schwarzenegger who not only plays movie star Jack Slater but also appears as himself as well. It is a fun performance because Arnie basically plays Slater in a way he would many of his action characters but a bit more tongue in cheek and so when you get a cheesy line it is intentionally funny rather than delivering a groan. In fact whilst Austin O'Brien has a pivotal role as Danny as does Charles Dance as bad guy Benedict it is Arnold who dominates every single scene, delivers the action as well as the big laughs.
What this all boils down to is that "Last Action Hero" is an amusingly clever movie for the simple reason it allows Arnie to play a typical action hero but with all the corny stuff being made fun off. It may not have the best action in the world but the self depreciating humour and the long list of cameos makes it fun from start to finish.