Knight and Day | rated PG-13 (V) | starring Cameron Diaz, Tom Cruise, Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis | directed by James Mangold | 1:49 mins

Bumping into the charming handsome guy at the airport would normally spark up a romantic comedy for any beautiful movie heroine. But what if that meeting was not serendipity, but arranged by the charming handsome guy – who is really a secret agent carrying a high value McGuffin. Suddenly June (Cameron Diaz) finds herself in just such a predicament on the way to her sister’s wedding where the man she meets on a nearly empty plane, Roy Miller (Tom Cruise), turns out to be a deadly secret agent. Suddenly she is riding shotgun in someone else’s action movie.

The premise of Knight and Day is a fresh take on a common genre. Two common genres mashed together actually. The romantic comedy action movie is really something that doesn’t work. They’re both at odds with each other – too violent for romantics, too cutesy for actioners. But Knight pulls it off pretty well. It isn’t smart or funny enough to work as a satire of either genre and it is too full of outrageously phony eye-candy only CGI stunts to be exciting. It’s a one joke premise, but that joke is a good one and it is miraculously sustained by director James Mangold long enough to carry the day.

Knight works as much as it does because it doesn’t ask us to buy a love story between the two leads – usually a forced turn that can expose how phony and manufactured the script is and completely sink a movie. Knight is smart enough to keep things light. Diaz plays the role as a shy girl in the shadow of her sister who is at first frightened and then becomes excited and emboldened by her brush with the super-spy life. She feels safe with Miller, but doesn’t fall in love and their potential life together is one of adventure, not settling down in a relationship. I appreciated this.

This leaves Mangold to focus where his heart apparently lies, the action. From a well choreographed airplane fight to a freeway chase to a motorcycle ride through a running of the bulls, Knight and Day is a well-staged live-action cartoon. The twist here is that by keeping the movie exclusively to June’s perspective we get an outsider’s look at the mayhem and a fresh perspective on otherwise well-worn action movie staples. Getting free from the clutches of thugs? Well, June is knocked out for that. In fact, in the movie’s funniest scene June is knocked out for several hours, going in and out of consciousness as Miller drags her all over the world. The McGuffin that keeps them moving in this case is a battery with an everlasting charge. It’s a shallow story, but I’ve seen worse McGuffins.

While Tom Cruise gets top billing Knight belongs to Diaz, who relishes taking the lead in a role that action movies usually relegate to being there to sleep with the hero at the one hour mark or take his hand in order to run away (Ok, she does a bit of that). She has a lot of fun particularly in the movie’s third act. Cruise, for his part, brings his own delicious trademark spastic goodness. This spy is more Jerry McGuire than Ethan Hunt, grinning with childlike enthusiasm at June’s ability to handle herself and casually asking how she is doing in the middle of a gun fight.

Diaz and Cruise are charming and Knight and Day is a fun watch. The action is rock solid and Cruise flings himself around like a rag doll with the best of them. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite get off the ground as a comedy. The movie is fun, but mildly entertaining. It has more of a tongue-in-cheek attitude toward spy movies than it is actually laugh-out-loud funny. And it’s too nice and not familiar enough with the cliches of the genre to give it a nasty little poke. The ending is also far too cute for my money, capping things off like a self-indulgent replay of it’s own one-liners and greatest hits. For such a potentially fun premise, the script our dynamic duo is forced to work with feels generic and built by committee. It’s a shame because I was rooting for this idea to pull through.