McConaughey is one of these characters, a theologian with a humanist bent who is deeply suspicious of technology but also in love with Foster. For some reason, he's also a close presidential adviser who manages to get in and out of every secured facility in the world. With his liquid drawl and an out-of-this world handsomeness, McConaughey is appealing, although his character doesn't make much sense, serving mainly as an instrument to force Foster to expound on issues like the existence of God.
But McConaughey is far more credible than Hurt's billionaire S. R. Hadden, who is nothing more than a hairless fairy godmother whom the movie trots out whenever Foster gets into a jam.
Zemeckis also turns to tiresome conventions of movie-making, some from his own past. He relies endlessly on the done-to-death technique of using famous TV types to provide the film's expositions. And he reprises his "Forrest Gump" device of intersplicing famous personages -- in this case, Bill Clinton -- into the film. But Clinton's remarks -- taken from actual appearances -- are so typically namby-pamby you can't help feeling Zemeckis is just showing off, to absolutely no narrative end.
"Contact" is a film with lofty ambitions, some of which it realizes. Too often, though, it stoops to pedestrian trickery.
Starring Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, James Woods and Tom Skerritt
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Released by Warner Brothers
Sun score: ** 1/2
Pub Date: 7/11/97