THE CHEESINESS so endemic to the "Star Trek" franchise -- groaningly bad jokes, androids in obvious pancake makeup, Cliffs Notes references to classical literature, Halloween-masked aliens, and the way the camera shakes and everyone on the bridge holds on to his chair whenever the Enterprise takes a direct hit -- is back in full force in "Star Trek: Nemesis," an offering so endearingly lame it seems to have missed the past 10 years' worth of special-effects breakthroughs. True trekkies (or is that trekkers?) wouldn't have it any other way.
Based on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Nemesis" finds Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and company en route to Betazed, the home of Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), who has just married her crewmate Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) in the first of two ceremonies, when a signal from a nearby planet indicates the presence of an android prototype of the same type as Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner). Brought on board and reassembled, this upstart C-3PO resembles the animatronic Enterprise crew member in every way -- bad hair, green eyes, pasty Marcel Marceau skin, personality of Al Gore -- except that he's a little less suave and debonair.
But there's another mild surprise to come. (Warning: Partial plot spoiler follows.) Diverted from the wedding on Betazed to investigate a peace proposal from the normally bellicose Romulans, Picard learns that his longtime enemies' new leader is not just from the Romulans' sister planet of Remus (Get it? Romulus and Remus, the twins of ancient myth?), but that he is a younger clone of Picard.
Now this is where the familiar cheesiness starts to lose a little of its charm and become just plain annoying. First of all, the guy playing the new Romulan praetor (again with the ancient Roman stuff!) looks nothing like Picard. Okay, they're both bald and British, and the makeup folks supposedly gave him a prosthetic chin and nose, but with his full lips and thuggish demeanor, actor Tom Hardy looks more like Vin Diesel than the patrician Stewart. Secondly, I think we can all agree that this doppelganger stuff is getting just a wee bit tired, don't you think? I mean, come on, dude -- and by "dude" I mean screenwriter John Logan, who, along with producer Rick Berman and Spiner, is credited with coming up with the story -- this evil twin shtick dates all the way back to the original "Trek." Anyone remember "Mirror, Mirror" or "Whom Gods Destroy," episodes in which evil doubles of Captain James T. Kirk figured prominently?
These not-so-little problems have the cumulative effect of taking you right out of the movie. Suspension of belief be damned. If you can't accept the most basic plot point -- and if that very plot point is just a rehash -- it's hard to swallow, let alone care about what follows.
One more thing. Billed as a neat and tidy conclusion to the "Next Generation" series (the film's tagline is "A Generation's Final Journey Begins," and there is an even bigger surprise waiting at the movie's end), this so-called final chapter comes complete with a sequel-ready escape hatch, which will either reassure all those "TNG" fans out there who aren't ready to say goodbye to their beloved friends or will seem like one giant instance of pandering to commerce, not to mention an artistic sellout.
STAR TREK: NEMESIS (PG-13, 117 minutes) -- Contains sci-fi violence and a sexual encounter. Area theaters.