Disney's "My Favorite Martian" is bookended by the only two laughsin the whole movie. The opening scene cleverly takes a swipe at NASA'sMars Rover mission as a springboard into the story about a visitor fromthe red planet marooned in Los Angeles by a broken down spaceship.
One of the last scenes pays homage to the 1960s TV showthat inspired this film in a way that makes the insufferable comic vacuumthat precedes it almost forgivable -- but only if you're old enough toremember 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 prowlfor an alien whose ship crash landed on the beach.
Their small roles provide the only real comedy in thisstring of pathetic sight gags loosely threaded together by the most insubstantialof plots.
But they're also secondary characters at best. Most ofthe film depends on Christopher Lloyd as the Martian and Jeff Daniels ashis unwilling Earthling guide, both of whom are just right for their partsbut spend the whole picture on auto-pilot, playing one-dimensional characterswith rubber faces.
It's easy to understand their lack of enthusiasm. Thismovie is a mess. Written by "Casper" scribes Sherri Stoner andDeanna 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: TheMartin's high-tech, wise-cracking space suit, which with the aid of computeranimation dances to Buster Poindexter tunes and inexplicably has a bettergrasp on Earth culture (mostly pop culture) than its owner does.
The rest of the cast isn't any better than the leads. ElizabethHurley embarrasses herself as a television reporter whose most prominentcharacter trait is her cleavage. Daryl Hannah doesn't come off any betteras Daniels' love interest, and she looks like a 35-year-old kindergartnerwith her hair in pig tails. The costume designer must have escaped froma mental ward.
Badly edited (different takes blended together in the samescene are distractingly obvious), plagued by sub-standard production valuesand riddled with gaping holes (SETI is portrayed as a military operation),"My Favorite Martian" is almost entirely predicated on low-browmisfires and the thinnest of story precepts (if NASA could tell the differencebetween a comet and a spaceship, there would be no plot).
Two or three times in its 88 minutes, the movie shows aglimmer of creativity, especially when it makes subtle nods to its predecessor(and to "Star Wars" as well -- one of the gadgets hasan R2-D2 audio drop as its sound effect). But "My Favorite Martian"even manages to blow its most promising moment (that closing homage) byshamelessly setting the stage for a sequel.
Let's hope it never comes.