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‘The Fly II’ (R)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 13, 1989

"The Fly II" buzzed in last week and immediately took a dive in the soup. That's not a particularly big surprise given that Chris Walas, the first-time director of this sequel, turns out to have been merely the makeup and animatronics director on David Cronenberg's original remake of "The Fly." But Chris Walas is no David Cronenberg, even though he uses "The Shape of Rage," a study of Cronenberg films, as a prop in one scene. Maybe he should have read it.

You get the feeling that story writer Mick Garris was stuck in a cubbyhole somewhere, whining "Help me, help me ... somebody help me," but even though others did come to help -- Jim and Ken Wheat and Frank Darabont showed up for screenplay credits -- the script is flat as a fly swatter. After a gross opening scene that suggests "It's Alive" and a dozen other stork-didn't-bring-this birth scenes, we're introduced to Martin Brundle, son of Seth Brundle, the brilliant but unfortunate scientist who became "The Fly." Since the life of a fly is about 30 days (longer than the run for this film, one suspects), Martin's childhood is all acceleration and aberration. By the time he's turned into slack-faced Eric Stoltz, Martin's supposed to be only 5 human-years old and still unaware of his imminent metamorphosis.

All these years, Martin's been confined to the clinical environment of Bartok Industries, whose evil, power-mad CEO (Lee Richardson) has visions of a super race of oversized flies. All Martin's time is spent on teleportation experiments -- he's as brilliant as his father -- until he meets Beth (Daphne Zuniga), on the graveyard shift. For Martin it's an instant case of pupa love but just as his hormones wake up, so do his miscreant genes: Finally, it's time for the special effects!

Unfortunately, they're not that special. Sure, Martin starts looking more and more like his father every minute, and there are a handful of gross effects when he's buzzing around Bartok Industries, wreaking revenge and looking for a life-saving gene-swapmate. But Walas' animatronic Robo-Fly is as clumsy as both Stoltz's Martin and the film's script, which resorts all too often to clever computer graphics and video-flashbacks. Well, maybe that's just gnat-picking.

Early on, an overachieving little Martin chides his keepers: "These tasks are far too simple to demand my full attention." One can imagine similar thoughts in the filmmakers' minds. But since there's likely to be another sequel, may we suggest the producers contact Keenen Ivory Wayans, who wrote and directed the recent blacksploitation spoof "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka." With just a little bit of gene- and genre-swapping, we could actually look forward to "Superfly III."

"The Fly II" is rated R and contains some gross special effects.

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