SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY – There are dual fatal flaws that wreck this backstory surrounding one of George Lucas’s primary players in his intergalactic serial set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”. As the younger title character, Alden Ehrenreich, who broke through amid some A-list players in the Coen brothers’ HAIL, CAESAR! (2016), lacks the charismatically roguish charm that his on-screen persona has to have to talk his way out of the inevitable jams he will always get himself into. Most of the screenplay portrays him as a street wise “scumrat” who wants to be a pilot so he can rescue his girlfriend (Emilia Clarke) who will wind up becoming a “lieutenant” for an interplanetary crime boss (Paul Bettany). Well, so much for that romantic storyline as well as the relevance of her character throughout the remainder of the proceedings. Eventually, Ehrenreich’s Han Solo sort of fades into the background even though the actor persists in trying way too hard to make him stand out in a movie that’s about him. While we could believe Josh Brolin as a younger version of Tommy Lee Jones in MEN IN BLACK 3 (2012), the same can’t be said for this youthful depiction of the Harrison Ford (WITNESS) character. But Ehrenreich isn’t given much to work with in the way of a script from father-son duo Lawrence (STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS) and Joel Kasdan who make the narrative a heist caper without a whole lot at stake and which has precious little relevance. Technically, the production design is top notch with elaborate sets coupled with the usual spate of imaginative visual effects plus a musical score that rises to the appropriate crescendo when big moments in the movie are about to happen. Tight editing along with the film’s action and battle sequences keep it nicely paced with Ron Howard’s (See CLOSING CREDITS.) workmanlike direction. But as the work progresses, you come to the realization that these moments of mayhem are compensating for storytelling that lacks cohesion and is never really able to come together as a satisfactory whole. I could at least appreciate the cinematic spin-off that was ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016) because it did act to fill in some unanswered gaps related to how the rebels got the plans from the Alliance on how to destroy the Death Star. In that movie, there was a decent amount of suspense, tension and the feeling that something of significance was really in play. This “story” just feels like a shameless “money grab” from Disney and Lucasfilm. CRITIC’S GRADE: C

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some far better movies directed by Ron Howard – NIGHT SHIFT (1982), SPLASH (1984), COCOON (1985), GUNG HO (1986), WILLOW (1988), PARENTHOOD (1989), BACKDRAFT (1991), APOLLO 13 (1995), RANSOM (1996), EDtv (1999), A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001)*, THE MISSING (2003), CINDERELLA MAN (2005), FROST/NIXON (2008)**

*Academy Award Winner for Best Director and Best Picture

**Academy Award Nomination for Best Director and Best Picture