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EVERYONE'S ON AUTO-PILOT.

Byline: Glenn Whipp Film Critic

AGGRESSIVELY stupid and blissfully unaware of it, ``Stealth'' follows a robot plane on a journey of self-awareness.

Talk about a character arc: This computer-driven jet begins life talking and acting like Hal 9000 from ``2001,'' turns into a fighter pilot's best friend a la KITT from ``Knight Rider'' and ends up emulating Christ himself, a miracle worker for Team America World Police.

Human beings could learn a thing or two from this robot plane, nicknamed EDI (as in Murphy, Izzard or Van Halen) by the other Navy fighter pilots in ``Stealth.'' Sure, EDI can be a little petulant at times, disobeying orders, ignoring common sense and barreling full-speed ahead into acts of aggression that run contrary to intelligence and evidence.

But EDI is a strong robot plane, and boy is he decisive. No waffler, this EDI, especially when it comes to dealing with evil terrorists aiming their hidden weapons of mass destruction somewhere, maybe even at America. EDI knows that a little collateral damage - the loss of the lives of tens of thousands of innocent civilians, say - is a small price to pay for freedom and the right to show the rest of the world that Americans will go shopping whenever we want - otherwise, the terrorists will have won.

EDI's antics don't always sit well with his less-single-minded fighter pilot teammates who include hot dog Top Gunner Ben (Josh Lucas), the sensitive (i.e. weak) Kara (Jessica Biel) and playboy Henry (Jamie Foxx, who goes through the movie looking like he'd rather be somewhere else). But, as EDI incisively points out to Master Ben, he just learns by watching and wasn't it Ben, after all, who disobeyed a superior's orders and flew off half-cocked through the streets of Rangoon, imploding buildings and giving terrorists a little taste of their own medicine?

But then, Ben's gross insubordination might have been just a case of showing off for Kara. He has the hots for her, though he never gets around to telling her, even after an early interlude in Thailand where Kara sports a killer bikini and ``Stealth'' briefly turns into a ``Making of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue'' special.

Strangely, Kara does not don her standard-issue combat bikini later when she finds herself on the run, dodging angry North Koreans in much the same way Biel fled from Leatherface in ``The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.'' Fortunately for Kara, the sight of her in that bikini still burns brightly in Ben's brain and, even better, robot plane is halfway down the path to Golgotha. She'll be OK and so will America, so long as those who hate proactive robot planes (i.e. freedom) remain in the minority.

Glenn Whipp, (818) 713-3672

glenn.whipp(at)dailynews.com

STEALTH - One star

(PG-13: intense action, some violence, brief strong language, innuendo)

Starring: Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, EDI the robot plane.

Director: Rob Cohen.

Running time: 2 hr. 1 min.

Playing: In wide release.

In a nutshell: Robot plane goes from evil to good in this modern-day parable.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 29, 2005
Words:508
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