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I Am Legend

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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BIG WILLY-NILLY Smith's latest

Next year, some 90 percent of mankind will be wiped out by a super-germ, and most of the lucky remainder will mutate into hairless zombies with a hankering for human flesh. But not to worry—Hollywood schmaltz of the most virulent strain will live on.

I Am Legend (Dec. 14), the third big-screen adaptation of Richard Matheson's creepy 1954 sci-fi novel (following 1964's Last Man on Earth and 1971's The Omega Man), takes a truly horrific and not altogether unlikely premise and systematically defangs it, shrugging off both the disconcerting moral ambiguities of the book and the dramatic possibilities of mass death—which should be nothing if not dramatic, right?—with idiotic aplomb.

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Just our luck that the last man standing, Dr. Robert Neville (the dumbass who inadvertently unleashed the pandemic in the first place), is played by Will Smith, the most blithely cocky action hero since George W. Bush. The guy single-handedly wipes out humanity, including his steadfast wife and adorable little girl, and still manages to crack wise—that is, when he's not knocking golf balls into the Hudson and memorizing Shrek.

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