Courtesy Photo
Opened: Friday, April 3, 1998
Rated: PG-13
Directed by Stephen Hopkins

Starring Gary Oldman, William Hurt, Matt LeBlanc, Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham, Lacey Chabert, Jack Johnson & Jared Harris

Cameos: Angela Cartwright, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, June Lockhart & Dick Tufeld (voice of Robot)

This film is on the Worst of 1998 list.
High-tech TV rehash little more than a toy commercial

The shelves of every Toys 'R' Us in the nation are right now stocked with tons of "Lost In Space" video games. I guarantee it.

Every action sequence in this grossly over-produced movie looks like designers from Nintendo were creative consultants.

The opening scene is a giant laser battle in Earth orbit that had me reaching for a joystick that wasn't there. Another scene finds the heroes at the end of a long hallway blasting thousands of steel-skinned giant spiders charging toward them on the walls, ceiling and floor.

Besides the games, you're sure to find action figures at your local toy store. The speaking version of the Robot ("Danger, Will Robinson!"), highly cheesy in the original 1960s TV series (what wasn't?) but now made-over like a Chrysler concept car, should be a big seller. I'm not so sure, however, about the retail viability of Blawp, the poorly-animated, Muppet-like, cute chameleon space monkey which was obviously crow-barred into the script for the sake tie-in sales.

"Lost In Space" isn't a movie. It's a commercial.

Written by Akiva Goldsman -- the contemptible pen behind "Batman and Robin," last year's worst movie -- the characters, dialogue and plot devices in "Lost In Space" are every bit as flat and contrived as the TV series ever was. Yet despite it's video game flavor, the film takes itself completely seriously.

The space adventuring Robinson family -- sent off to colonize a new world so mankind has somewhere to go since the Earth is dying -- are a dysfunctional bunch with abandonment issues. Like we care.

Dr. Smith, a disagreeable stow-away on the TV show, here is a megamaniacal terrorist (played by Gary Oldman, naturally) trying to do in the Robinsons for no adequately explored reason.

And, of course, little Will Robinson is a computer hacker who just wants a little acknowledgment from his workaholic father.

Oh, puh-leaze! This is a bug-blasting sci-fi movie, fer cryin' out loud. Loose the melodrama.

The movie stars the formerly respectable William Hurt (who must be behind on his mortgage to stoop this low) as John Robinson, a genius space physicist who agrees to drag his reluctant family along on a mission to colonize distant Alpha Prime.

His brood includes estranged wife Maureen (Mimi Rogers), scientist/babe daughter Judy (Heather Graham), sulking teenager Penny (Lacey Chabert) and 10-year-old Will (Jack Johnson), whose astronomical IQ (he's invented a time machine) is supposed to make up for his appalling lack of common sense.

The family Robinson takes off for Alpha Prime with stud pilot Don West (Matt LeBlanc) at the helm, but due to sabotage by the nefarious Dr. Smith, who becomes trapped on board, find themselves flung halfway across the galaxy in a hyperspace snafu.

From this point on there's no real plot. Director Stephen Hopkins ("The Ghost and the Darkness") just takes the Robinsons through a string of random adventures, spring-boarding off coincidental run-ins with derelict space craft and convenient "time-bubbles" (whatever they are) until the story collapses in on itself in a nonsensical temporal paradox climax.

When "Lost In Space" isn't busy with the Robinsons' domestic problems or battle scenes lifted from "Babylon 5," it's betraying its prefabricated origins by bleeding obtuse sci-fi dialogue from every orifice.

"Finally the warring nations of Earth had put aside their differences and worked together...(blah, blah, blah)," goes the introductory voice over.

"You're father's battle strategies were required reading at the Academy," Don West tells John Robinson.

"Lost In Space" may look pretty slick with its $100 million worth of computer-generated effects (they didn't get their money's worth), but in fact it's nothing more than an insultingly plotless advertisement for merchandise tie-ins.

If the producers hadn't been so concerned with re-designing scenes around a wide-eyed space monkey or developing a touching friendship between a boy and his way-cool robot pal, "Lost In Space" might have been a classy big-budget adventure.

But when your highest priority is choosing which scenes will go on the free cups at Taco Bell, you don't deserve anybody's $7.50.

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