Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible sequel is living up to its name.

Paramount Pictures yelled, "Uncle," Wednesday, pushing back the release date of its big-budget popcorn flick some six months--to next May 24.

The studio had been hoping for a Christmas 1999 release--December 17, to be exact--for the Cruise-headlined Mission: Impossible 2.

But the production has been plagued by delays, although today's trade papers decline to paint the film as troubled.

The Mission: Impossible 2 move, meanwhile, sets up a Tom Cruise-packed Summer 2000. A second Cruise film--Minority Report, a sci-fi thriller directed by Steven Spielberg--is due out from 20th Century Fox on June 30, 2000. Unless Fox blinks and shuffles the date, it'll be selling a Tom Cruise movie--against a Tom Cruise movie.

Hopes for a winter release for Mission: Impossible 2 were merely "too ambitious," sources tell Daily Variety. After blown start dates in March due to script trouble, the film now is just one week behind schedule, the trade paper says.

In Australia, where the movie's being shot, the Daily Telegraph neatly anticipated the doomed December plans with a report Sunday that "key scenes," including a car-crash sequence, remained unshot and that production wouldn't wrap there until August 27.

For months, the word has been that the Mission: Impossible 2 crew wasn't enjoying the smoothest of sets. There were staff defections during the delays in March. There were location headaches. And there were "stylistic differences" between director John Woo (Face/Off) and cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, leading to Lesnie's exit in May.

But, in the Hollywood Reporter, a Paramount executive labels "erroneous" any reports suggesting serious trouble with the production.

"We got started late, but everything is moving smoothly," says Robert Friedman, motion picture group vice chairman. "...We're in the throes of finishing production right now and don't want to compromise John Woo's postproduction time."

The original Mission: Impossible, a 1996 actioneer loosely based on the 1960s TV show of the same name, grossed some $180.9 million. Cruise reprises his role of gadget-proficient federal agent Ethan Hunt in the sequel. Ving Rhames also returns for the ride.

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