Mars Attacks! Movie Review

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We've already had three movies based on TV shows this year, plus a film based on a TV commercial, but I think it's a really bad omen when a film is based on a series of trading cards.

The film is Mars Attacks!, and with it Tim Burton serves up the worst production of his once-blossoming career, a movie wherein he indulges every excess of his demented psyche, pays no attention to entertaining the audience, and recycles every joke he can get his hands on.

The joke recycling would be okay, even appropriate, given Burton's predilection for shtick, if only the jokes were funny! But they're not. Nothing much is funny in Mars Attacks!, whose mildly amusing War of the Worlds story can best be described as... Mars attacks.

Burton obviously started this production in the casting -- Jack Nicholson as the president, Glenn Close as his uppity wife, Annette Bening as a New Age freak, Pierce Brosnan as a sophisticated science advisor. You get the idea. I guess Burton figured that throwing Tom Jones (as himself) into the mix would make it all better.

And maybe it would have, except the performances look like they're cobbled together from the days off that the cast of some 15 "name" actors happened to have. Bits and pieces of what should be on the editing room floor have somehow made their way into the final print instead, and in no particular order, either. Only one running joke stands out as worthy -- a flirtation between two disembodied heads (I won't say who).

I realize that Mars Attacks! was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek homage to the cheesy, old sci-fi flicks (but Tim, you already made Ed Wood), but Mars Attacks! isn't even any good as a farce. The movie just plain looks bad -- too bad to be taken seriously, but not bad enough to look bad on purpose. And Burton's use of ultra-campy stars like Lisa Marie and Pam Grier? Puh-leeze. Where's Richard Roundtree, Tim?

Got the point yet? Because I'm tired of writing about this dead film. I wonder if we'll ever know what Burton had in mind when he put together this giant waste of time, but then again, who cares?

Nice 'do, Lisa.

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Mars Attacks! Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 1996


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