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Laramie Movie Scope:
Mars Attacks!

A comedy filled with death and gross-out special effects

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 18, 1996 -- "Mars Attacks!" is an attempt to combine a 1950's science fiction movie and a modern comedy. It is a very disappointing effort by director Tim Burton.

The trailers for the film looked so promising. It has a large cast of talented actors, including Jack Nicholson as the president and Glenn Close as the first lady. There's Danny DeVito, Annette Benning, Pierce Brosnan, Rod Steiger, Paul Winfield, Michael J. Fox. The list goes on and on.

The trouble with that is, every time you start getting interested in one of these characters, they get killed. One leading lady gets crushed under a falling chandelier, presumably for laughs. After a while, all this carnage has a palling effect on the intended humor of the movie. Even black humor needs character development and there's very little of that in this film. Most of the characters are cartoon-like.

Another problem with the film is director Tim Burton's ("Batman") addiction to gross-out special effects. There is no excuse for them. They represent nothing but indulgence by the filmmaker at the expense of the audience. The story also takes way too long to develop and it doesn't speed up much after the invasion begins. This film really drags, perhaps because of the need to jump around between all of these story lines and follow all of those characters.

The film does have a point. It tries to get across a message about love and families being more important than power, prestige and science. The "final solution" to the Martian problem is funny and quirky. There are some very funny bits in the film, but they are few and far between. This film rates a D, for dud.

I've read reports from other people who really loved this film. One guy on the Internet said he liked it so much his moviegoing experience wasn't spoiled by the fact that he saw the guy sitting next to him gunned down and killed right after the movie outside the theater. That tells you all you need to know about the kind of mentality it takes to truly enjoy this film. You gotta be real sensitive to appreciate homicide for laughs.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1996 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)