Rated PG-13 - Running time: 2:10 - Released 4/3/98

The release of Lost In Space continues two current movie trends: 1) the evolution of favorite '60s TV shows into feature films, and 2) the triumph of special effects over screenwriting.

First of all, this movie is set in 2058, only 50 years in the future, but the technology seems to be more like 1,000 years ahead. A minor point, but an indicator of the kind of shoddy scriptwriting that is to follow. An excursion is about to begin that will take the Robinson family [John (William Hurt), Maureen (Mimi Rogers), Judy (Heather Graham), Penny (Lacey Chabert) and Will (Jack Johnson)] to another planet that may be habitable for the human race. This is a dire necessity considering the fact that the use of fossil fuels and the greenhouse effect has continued unchecked and threatens to make Earth uninhabitable in less than 20 years. The trans-galactic crossing will be made through a pair of gates designed to open up a wormhole in space, yatta, yatta, yatta, you've heard it all before.

Also on board are the hotshot pilot who didn't want this job, Don West (Matt Leblanc of Friends), evil stowaway Dr. Smith (Gary Oldman), and the new-and-improved-but-not-all-that-much robot (voice of Don Tufeld, who portrayed the robot on the TV series), re-programmed by Smith to destroy the Robinsons and the ship shortly after takeoff. Of course, Smith didn't plan to be on the ship at the time.

After the robot is almost successful in carrying out Smith's orders, the disabled ship and ticked-off crew are headed straight for the sun. But West figures out that to avoid turning into candle wax, they must use the ship's "hyperdrive" to — get this — fly right through the sun and out the other side. Okay, all right, all you scientists out there, stop laughing and wipe the tears from your eyes; you've gotta hear the end of this. So the ship survives, but our friends end up in deep space without a map. And promptly crash-land on a foreign planet.

From this point on, Akiva Goldman's story, which had been teetering on the edge of disaster, finally takes the plunge. The first hour or so of the movie, although full of holes plot-wise, survives on the spectacular beauty of special effects. But when the ship crashes, so does the script — and even the effects computers can't save it. It becomes exponentially more complicated and far-fetched with each passing minute.

The acting is generally average, but Stephen Hopkins's directing is virtually non-present. The characters' relationships are half-baked and spotty. We are supposed to believe that John and Maureen are at once hot for each other and emotionally distant, but really there isn't much connection between Hurt and Rogers at all. There is no reason why John would be so inattentive to his young son Will — the boy genius is obviously following in his father's footsteps — but talk about a deadbeat dad! This is established so that there can be an "emotional" reconciliation, but why such a dysfunctional family would be chosen to make this historic voyage is never explained. And adult daughter Judy and pilot West have the old standby relationship: arrogant, horny man meets intelligent, offended woman and wins her over through increased arrogance and horniness. Touching.

I know, I know — this is based on a '60s TV show; they didn't ponder these issues then. BUT YOU'RE SPENDING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS! PONDER THEM NOW! ***

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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