Friday February 12, 1999
"My Favorite Martian" lands on the big screen with a thud, but if Disney is lucky, this may not matter much to children, who could be captivated by the clever special effects, or to diehard fans of the popular TV series of the same name that ran on CBS from 1963 to 1966.
Nonetheless, the film is loud and labored--its sense of adventure kicking in so late that it scarcely matters.
When a martian (Christopher Lloyd) lands by the ocean near Santa Barbara, feckless local TV reporter Tim O'Hara (Jeff Daniels), a nice-guys-finish-last prototype, naturally figures that here's his chance to save his career in a really big way. But the martian, who has the ability to assume human form, among many other magical gifts, wants to keep his presence secret, insisting on passing himself off as Tim's Uncle Martin.
This keys no end of wrangling and a plethora of incidents of little interest, eventually making Uncle Martin the target of an obsessed scientist (Wallace Shawn). Meanwhile, Tim is so bewitched by the beautiful but clueless daughter (Elizabeth Hurley) of his erstwhile fire-breathing boss (Michael Lerner) that he overlooks lovely station camerawoman Daryl Hannah.
The film is so busy, contrived and clunky that at times its strained writers (Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver) and heavy-handed director (Donald Petrie) seem to defy you to pay attention to it. (Penelope Spheeris' "The Beverly Hillbillies," which brings an affectionate, sophisticated sensibility to bear upon cornball material, remains the standard by which all films from old TV series are measured.)
The cast of reliables is game, serving to remind us that they have all been seen to better advantage in numerous other pictures. The only truly inspired touch in the entire film is the way in which the TV series' martian, Ray Walston, has been integrated into the plot. What's more, Walston displays a crisp wit and blithe sense of whimsy otherwise lacking in this loser.
My Favorite Martian, 1999. PG, for some crude humor, action-violence, partial nudity and language. A Buena Vista Pictures release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation. Director Donald Petrie. Producers Robert Shapiro & Jerry Leider. Executive producer Barry Bernardi. Screenplay by Sherri Stoner & Deanna Oliver. Based on the television series "My Favorite Martian," created by John L. Greene and produced by Jack Chertok. Cinematographer Thomas Ackerman. Editor Malcolm Campbell. Music John Debney. Visual effects supervisors Phil Tippett and John Van Vliet. Animatronic martian effects designed and created by Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. Production designer Sandy Veneziano. Art director Christopher Burian-Mohr. Set decorator Michael J. Talor. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Martin. Jeff Daniels as Tim O'Hara. Elizabeth Hurley as Brace Channing. Daryl Hannah as Lizzie.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun