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A Waste of 'Space'

By Desson Howe
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)

Stephen Hopkins
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
Sexual undertones and scary monsters
Many of us remember the "Lost in Space" television series: freckly Billy Mumy as Will Robinson, his coldly logical robot pal (with the cheap prop arms) who said: "That does not compute" and "Danger, Will Robinson!" and, of course, the treacherous, fussy Dr. Smith.

For those who do remember, keep those memories preserved. They won't be re-evoked with "Lost in Space," a galactic slump of a movie that stuffs its travel bag with special effects but forgets to pack the charm. And for those who never saw the TV series, make sure you never see the movie either.

In the not-too-distant future, Professor John Robinson (William Hurt), his wife Maureen (Mimi Rogers), and their children – Judy (Heather Graham), Penny (Lacey Chabert) and Will (Jack Johnson) – are selected to be the first family in space. Earth is going to hell in a handbasket, depleted ozone layer and all that.

The mission-oriented professor is heedless to the dissension in the family ranks, especially from teenager Penny who just wants to have fun on Earth. But bigger problems face the Robinsons' scheduled 10-year journey. The fiendish Dr. Smith (Gary Oldman) throws a futuristic monkey wrench into the works but his plan backfires. Suddenly he finds himself stuck involuntarily with the family in a malfunctioning spaceship with a murderously reprogrammed robot in a remote corner of the void. Unfortunately, you'll want to get off this mission, too.

Apart from Oldman's eccentrically nasty performance, there's very little rocket fuel in this production. The movie blasts us with family bickering of the most formulaic variety ("This mission's the only thing he cares about any more," sniffs Penny, referring to her father), as well as been-there-seen-that special effects. It borrows every known element from space pictures of the past 20 years, from "Star Wars" to "Starship Troopers." Time-traveling, Darth Vader-like villains, scuttling spiders, they're all there. The movie even throws in a fuzzy little space creature with big Disney eyes, designed to excite younger viewers. Clearly New Line Cinema has no shame.

This family Robinson certainly gets my vote to be shot into space. Hurt seems even more bewildered and slow-motored than usual. Rogers is a tedious harpy who constantly berates her spiritually inert husband for not caring about his children. Graham is a one-dimensionally sanctimonious snot. The ironically named Jack Johnson, who may be the dullest child actor with an Equity card, is nobody's hope. "Party of Five" star Chabert has a munchkin-on-helium voice that would make anyone want to push her through a porthole.

Just to make things irretrievably awful, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman turns space pilot Don West (Matt LeBlanc) into a sexual predator. "That's one cool fish I'd love to thaw," he tells Professor Robinson, referring to Judy.

Don's full-scale sexual harassment of Judy continues throughout the journey until . . . he finally succeeds! Excellent message! Roguish "charm," zero intelligence and graphically sexual comments will hook a space babe every time! Maybe this interstellar lounge lizard saw "Boogie Nights," in which Graham spent most of her time naked on roller skates. Maybe for his re-education, he could be forced to watch the old "Lost in Space" series, a disarmingly pleasant experience that anticipated the future dominated by R2D2 and C3PO but retained the innocence of the past.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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