"MY FAVORITE MARTIAN"|
88 minutes | Rated: PG
Opened: Friday, February 12, 1999
Directed by Donald Petrie
Starring Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Daniels, Elizabeth Hurley, Daryl Hannah, Wallace Shawn, Christine Ebersole, Micheal Lerner & Ray Walston
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 10%|
LETTERBOX: NOT NECESSARY
If you really want to put yourself or your kids through this debacle when there's so many good kids movie's out there, that's your business, but small screen translation certainly won't make it any worse. But you could just wait for it on the Disney Channel and put that $3 to better use.
VIDEO RELEASE: 9/28/99
Last-act homage to TV inspiration the only redemption for Disney adaptation
Disney's "My Favorite Martian" is bookended by the only two laughs in the whole movie. The opening scene cleverly takes a swipe at NASA's Mars Rover mission as a springboard into the story about a visitor from the red planet marooned in Los Angeles by a broken down spaceship.
One of the last scenes pays homage to the 1960s TV show that inspired this film in a way that makes the insufferable comic vacuum that precedes it almost forgivable -- but only if you're old enough to remember Ray Walston as the original Martian.
Walston has a supporting role in this big screen adaptation. He and the whiny and wonderful character actor Wallace Shawn ("Clueless," "My Dinner With Andre," etc.) play mock "Men in Black," government agents on the prowl for an alien whose ship crash landed on the beach.
Their small roles provide the only real comedy in this string of pathetic sight gags loosely threaded together by the most insubstantial of plots.
But they're also secondary characters at best. Most of the film depends on Christopher Lloyd as the Martian and Jeff Daniels as his unwilling Earthling guide, both of whom are just right for their parts but spend the whole picture on auto-pilot, playing one-dimensional characters with rubber faces.
It's easy to understand their lack of enthusiasm. This movie is a mess. Written by "Casper" scribes Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver (who are working on a "Roger Rabbit" sequel -- god help us), and directed by Donald Petrie ("Grumpy Old Men"), fully a fourth of the screen time is taken up by a single sight gag: The Martin's high-tech, wise-cracking space suit, which with the aid of computer animation dances to Buster Poindexter tunes and inexplicably has a better grasp on Earth culture (mostly pop culture) than its owner does.
The rest of the cast isn't any better than the leads. Elizabeth Hurley embarrasses herself as a television reporter whose most prominent character trait is her cleavage. Daryl Hannah doesn't come off any better as Daniels' love interest, and she looks like a 35-year-old kindergartner with her hair in pig tails. The costume designer must have escaped from a mental ward.
Badly edited (different takes blended together in the same scene are distractingly obvious), plagued by sub-standard production values and riddled with gaping holes (SETI is portrayed as a military operation), "My Favorite Martian" is almost entirely predicated on low-brow misfires and the thinnest of story precepts (if NASA could tell the difference between a comet and a spaceship, there would be no plot).
Two or three times in its 88 minutes, the movie shows a glimmer of creativity, especially when it makes subtle nods to its predecessor (and to "Star Wars" as well -- one of the gadgets has an R2-D2 audio drop as its sound effect). But "My Favorite Martian" even manages to blow its most promising moment (that closing homage) by shamelessly setting the stage for a sequel.
Let's hope it never comes.