LOS ANGELES -- They played it safe, and who could blame them?
The 83rd Academy Awards opened with hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco taking an "Inception"-inspired journey through the dreams of former host Alec Baldwin, dreams that turned out to be clips from nominated films into which Hathaway and Franco were inserted, in a rather astonishingly seamless way. The jokes ranged from the sublime -- "I loved you in 'Tron,' " Franco tells Jeff Bridges in "True Grit" -- to the ridiculous -- Hathaway's "dance of the brown duck" in front of "Black Swan's" Natalie Portman. But it was clever, colorful and suffered not at all from its merciful lack of song-styling.
For the rest of the evening, however, the two seemed to be following the directive to "first do no harm," as if they knew they couldn't score as big as Jimmy Fallon did with the Emmys but were determined to avoid becoming morning-show fodder like Ricky Gervais was after this year's Golden Globes. The result was a show that moved along, with a few draggy bits and high notes, like precisely what it was: a very long and fancy awards show.