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MY FAVOURITE MARTIAN

SYNOPSIS:
When an alien spacecraft from Mars crash-lands on a California beach. Unwittingly, a down-on-his-luck TV producer Tim O’Hara (Jeff Daniels) happens on the wreck. The alien assumes human form and soon adopts Tim, posing as his Uncle Martin (Christopher Lloyd). But the crash hasn’t gone unnoticed and soon the visitor is being tracked by the nerdy scientist Dr Coleye (Wallace Shawn) and his team, and ambitious TV presenter Brace (Elizabeth Hurley) who senses a scoop. The only person interested in Tim is his long-suffering camera operator Lizzie (Darryl Hannah). When a video tape of Uncle Martin and his walking, talking space suit Zoot fall into the wrong hands, the chase is on in earnest. To make matters worse, Uncle Martin’s ship needs a part urgently, or it will explode; stranding him on Earth permanently.

"When I was a kid, one of the last TV shows we were allowed to watch before bed was My Favorite Martian, starring Ray Walston and Bill Bixby. This new film version nods in the direction of the original series, but then spirals into a Men in Black style "bug-hunt" movie. Call me a traditionalist, but I found the addition of the CGI-animated space suit "character" Zoot (get it?) annoying in the extreme. Jeff Daniels is the standout amongst the human actors, playing Tim as a classic straight man against Christopher Lloyd’s maniacal Uncle Martin. His innocent bewilderment at this bizarre visitor from outer space is at least convincing, even if the role lacks the kind of depth he displayed in Pleasantville. Lloyd, for his part, brings a zaniness to Uncle Martin; but is largely subsumed by shape-changing special effects. Liz Hurley as a bitchy TV reporter never seems stretched; and Darryl Hannah’s love interest quickly degenerates into a damsel in distress. A nice touch, though, is Ray Walston, the original Uncle Martin, in a small but significant supporting role. My Favorite Martian is clearly aimed at a pre-teen audience; and its impressive effects and fairly basic humour should guarantee it will do well in that demographic. If you want an undemanding school holiday film for the kids, this could be a fair bet. But if you’re looking for anything more, or you’re nostalgic for the TV series, My Favorite Martian misses the mark."
David Edwards

"Recycling his wild-eyed boffin routine yet again, Christopher Lloyd is bound to remind some nostalgic viewers of Back To The Future – a movie that, like much ‘80s cinema in the Spielberg mold, now seems meticulously classical, every scene and performance part of a streamlined whole. My Favorite Martian, by contrast, is just bits and pieces, marketing concepts and schtick. Lloyd, the official ‘alien’ in the cast, is no more or less outré than Elizabeth Hurley’s fembot glamour girl or Wallace Shawn’s runty, dirt-eating professor. Most of the big comedy moments depend on digital effects, which tend to fragment any film's universe: there’s no automatic link between the physical world that includes Lloyd’s hammy performance, and the totally malleable digital image with its inorganic, liquid-metal sheen. A perfect emblem for the latter is Martin's animatronic sidekick Zoot the Suit, who’s literally an empty shell, a faceless entity with no clear character traits except a liking for zany pop culture references that aren’t actually jokes. (‘Aren’t you one of the Spice Girls?’ it asks a henchman at random.) But the effects are also the best part of the film, enabling some pleasurably offhand, cartoon-like transformations – as when Martin's limbs start falling off, or Daryl Hannah briefly mutates from damsel in distress into ravenous Beast From Planet X. Almost unwillingly, these stunts suggest plenty of intriguing ideas that aren’t explored – such as the intimate, quasi-symbiotic relationship between Martin and Zoot, or Martin’s unconscious sexual potency which leaves women stunned and gasping. But for a PG-rated school holiday flick this could be worse."
Jake Wilson

"My Favorite Martian represents the very worst in mainstream American cinema. Devoid of originality, Martian may owe its basic premise to the classic TV series of the sixties, but the TV show's sense of wit and satiric qualities have been replaced by a special effects monstrosity that is not only over-directed, but loud and totally unsophisticated. The film's only redeeming feature is the subtle and amusing reference to the original series, courtesy of Ray Walston; ironically, those gags would be way above the heads of the movie's target audience. And what about that audience? Those tiny prepubescent tots who suffer through this obtuse film, will be greeted by scenes featuring an abundance of flatulence, toilet humour and belching; these were the only times the audience I sat with twittered. The film has a parade of clever effects, to be sure, effects that make up for a script written in a matter of days. Donald Petrie's unsubtle direction results in some rather woeful acting, especially that of Christopher Lloyd, a dull, one-note comic actor who clearly believes that loud is funny, instead of annoying. Whatever Jeff Daniels thought agreeing to be a part of this mess is beyond me, and he's simply bland, while Daryl Hannah is wasted. Elizabeth Hurley is slightly better, showing rare comic flair, and veterans Wallace Shawn and Ray Walston may have taken the money and ran, but they're among the film's more agreeable participants. It's a shame that with so much talent at its disposable, Disney has to resort to making a film of such low quality. This Martian remains nobody's favourite - least of all mine."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 1
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TRAILER

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

MY FAVOURITE MARTIAN (PG)
(US)

CAST: Jeff Daniels, Christopher Lloyd, Elizabeth Hurley, Daryl Hannah, Wallace Shawn, Christine Ebersole, Michael Lerner, Ray Walston

DIRECTOR: Donald Petrie

PRODUCER: Robert Shapiro, Jerry Leider, Marc Toberoff

SCRIPT: Sherri Stones, Deanna Oliver

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thomas Ackerman ASC

EDITOR: Malcolm Campbell

MUSIC: John Debney

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sandy Veneziano

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: July 17, 1999 (Brisbane); Jun 24 (Melbourne); Jul 1 (elsewhere)







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