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$70 Million 'Lost in Space': Warning! Warning!

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 3, 1998

  Movie Critic


Lost in Space
Heather Graham plays Judy Robinson and Matt LeBlanc is Maj. West in "Lost in Space." (New Line Cinema)
"Lost in Space" jettisons the silver suits and sheer innocence of the '60s TV series in hopes of bringing cosmic relevance and modern dazzle to this nostalgic kitsch. The filmmakers never stopped to think that the old program's appeal was in its insanely chipper cast and its primitive, pre-hyperspace effects.

Boasting state-of-the-art gimcracks and a solid cast, the motion picture lifts off easily enough. Only it's not long before you realize that mission control forgot to load the Tang.
Director:
Stephen Hopkins
Cast:
William Hurt;
Gary Oldman;
Mimi Rogers;
Heather Graham;
Matt LeBlanc;
Lacey Chabert;
Jack Johnson;
Mark Goddard;
Angela Cartwright;
June Lockhart
Running Time:
1 hour, 30 minutes
PG-13
Sexual undertones and scary monsters

The futuristic adventure follows the travails of the all-American Robinson family. Headed here by William Hurt and Mimi Rogers, the clan has evolved from a galaxy-hopping version of "The Brady Bunch" into a squabbling, dysfunctional brood in search of harmony among the spheres. Fortunately, nothing breeds togetherness like a crisis, and the movie contains a monotonous chain of same: giant bugs, time warps, asteroid fields, bumpy rides.

Many of these mishaps, as well as the family's body-conscious bat suits and other of the movie's accouterments, originated with Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Ridley Scott and other gifted veterans of the science-fiction genre. So it's no surprise that writer Akiva Goldsman and much of the crew are veterans of the "Batman" franchise, "The Fifth Element," "Time Bandits" and so on. But given the precarious state of the planet, recycling does seem in order.

Polluted, overpopulated and swiftly running out of resources, Mother Earth can support only two more generations. So the Robinson family and ace pilot Don West (Matt LeBlanc) set off in search of other, habitable planets. Only hours into the mission, however, Jupiter 2 is jolted off course and the Robinsons wake from their cryogenic slumber to find themselves stranded in uncharted space.

Dr. Zachary Smith (Gary Oldman), who sabotaged the vessel, is along for the ride, a fate he bemoans loudly and with regularity. There's a surplus of grousing aboard Jupiter 2: Professor Robinson (Hurt) and the cocky rocket jockey repeatedly vie for the title of Alpha Centauri Male. Maureen Robinson (Rogers) chides them for "hosing the deck with testosterone" instead of sharing their toys like good little boys.

Robinson's wife and children, Will (Jack Johnson) and Penny (Lacey Chabert), feel neglected by their father, who proves as distant and self-absorbed in his work in orbit as he did on Earth. Will, a robotics whiz kid, finds solace in Robbie the robot (voiced by the TV show's Dick Tufeld), while the rebellious teen, Penny, makes a pet of a cuddly wittle space monkey (named Blawp for the sound you make when you frow up).

Except for Blawp, the movie is surprisingly faithful to the TV series's pilot episode on which it is based, although its science can be somewhat sillier. Yes indeed, there are starship bloopers aplenty. Most noticeably, the Jupiter 2 flies within a hundred miles of the sun's surface without the astronauts so much as breaking into a sweat.

Director Stephen Hopkins ("The Ghost and the Darkness") serves up the techno-baubles – $70 million worth – with panache. But hardware doesn't make a movie; characters, be they Blawp or human, do. And as so often happens with such outsize undertakings, they are overwhelmed by the gizmos. Technology, one. Astros, naught.

   
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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