Agog poppet Austin O'Brien is zapped into his hero Jack Slater (Schwarzenegger)'s latest blastathon.
Snakeskin boots clomp down upon the sidewalk. The hero unclamps the stogy from his mouth and snarls "You want to be a farmer? Here's a couple of acres!" before kicking an adversary in the balls.
Yes, Big Arnold, the Macho Man, is back ... Except he's not, for what we are seeing here is a movie within a movie. Arnold is "Jack Slater", star of firepower-fuelled action flicks, and an 11-year-old boy, Danny (O'Brien), is watching his idol (in "Jack Slater IV") on the screen. Now, Danny has a magic cinema ticket and this whisks him off into film-land and the backseat of Jack's car right in the middle of a noisy chase sequence.
Such is the conceit of Last Action Hero: "real" character joins "fictional" character up on screen, "fictional" character joins "real" character in "real" world. And just look at the difference. On film, "Jack Slater" can punch through glass and plummet from tall buildings and do himself no injury; in the "real" world, he discovers, these things hurt. In the "real" world, the "bad guys" sometimes win. Yes, sad to say, this is a film striving for a "moral" of a "hey-kids-don't-try-this-action-stuff-at-home/hey-kids-don't-take-this-action-stuff-too-seriously" nature.
Be careful out there, soft Arnold is cooing. There again, Last Action Hero is a film that wants to have its candy and eat it, too: for while it sends up action movies, its many lavish blowing-up scenes and its display of "splendid" weaponry are as glossy and numbing as anything you're likely to get in a genuine "actioner". Having said all that, there are some not unamusing moments here. Like when Jack Slater's life is saved by a cartoon cat called Whiskers who works at the same fictional police precinct.
Or like when Danny, having to watch Olivier's Hamlet in English class, daydreams that it's "Jack Slater" who is the Prince - "Claudius. You killed my father. Big mistake. To be or not to be? Not to be" (Cue enormous explosion of Elsinore). Or like when Danny, attempting to convince "Jack" that he's living in a movie, takes him into a video shop only to come across a display for Terminator 2 starring Sylvester Stallone.
The "plot"? Oh, a load of hokum about Charles Dance (obligatory English psychopath bad person) who's trying to kill everybody. That doesn't matter: the joke's the thing. And there's many a cameo personage on hand - Sharon Stone in that dress, Tina Turner, Little Richard, Arnie's real-life wife Maria Shriver (who almost steals the film by telling the "real" Arnie how ridiculous he is) - to show that they think it's all quite funny, too. "How would you feel if you just found out someone had made you up?" says "Slater" in bewilderment. Oh, Arnold, you are a card.
This is an attempt to be both a high-octane actionfest and a satire on such films, the result of which is the weirdest concoction: the metaphysical blockbuster. No wonder it tanked.