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'Viewers, we have a problem'
Review: 'Mission to Mars' a wasted trip
(CNN) -- Merely labeling "Mission to Mars" as just another run-of-the-mill bad movie would be a huge disservice to bad movies everywhere. No, "Mission to Mars" takes bad to a whole new level. This film is mind boggling and stupid, a derivative piece of doo-doo that's an embarrassment for all involved.
Veteran director Brian De Palma, who helmed the incomprehensible "Mission Impossible" in 1996, this time has created a mission imbecilic.
The film's actors, who in the past have displayed some kind of wisdom in their acting choices, also have egg all over their faces. What were Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle and Gary Sinise thinking when they signed on the bottom line for this project, which could easily be renamed "The Three Stooges Go To Outer Space?"
Your average "Buck Rogers" serial from the 1930s had better plots, pacing and suspense than this sleeping pill disguised as a movie.
From backyard to far beyond
Set in the year 2020, the film opens at a farewell backyard barbecue where we meet the main players, who are celebrating their impending first-ever trip to the red planet. Cheadle is the only star on this maiden voyage, so you know right away that all the other unknown actors along for the ride are in trouble.
Yep, disaster strikes, and Cheadle's character, Cmdr. Luke Graham -- any resemblance to a fellow named Skywalker may be more than just coincidence -- is stranded and alone on Mars.
Enter our two other stars. Robbins, portraying Cmrd. Woody Blake, and Sinise, as Cmdr. Jim McConnell, rush to the rescue.
Watch closely, because the only scenes even slightly suspenseful take place next. The rescuers are launched from a huge space station circling earth; the sets on the station, by production designer Ed Verreaux, are the film's high point.
This movie's script brings to mind that adage about the inverse relationship between the number of cooks and the quality of broth. The screenplay and story are by Lowell Cannon, Jim Thomas, John Thomas and Graham Yost.
Once their tale brings us to Mars the whole plot becomes laughable as our stoic heroes face one stupid challenge after another. A ludicrous finale brings the mission to a merciful close.
Realistic touches amid hokum
You name the space flick, and this cheap piece of junk has some derivative moment or two stolen from it.
Yes, there's a little mumbling about some type of "force" -- the sort that, fortunately, doesn't have to be with you. There's even a computer with a laconic voice. No, it isn't named Hal, but viewers can be forgiven if they're reminded of the star of "2001."
"Mission to Mars" is one of the first films produced under NASA's new Space Act Agreement for film and TV. This allowed filmmakers to use the Kennedy Space Center for locations and shoot the NASA logo. That adds a realistic look to the spacesuits and equipment used in the film, but these touches of realism can't salvage this slow-paced voyage to nowhere.
De Palma has enjoyed success in the past with "Dressed To Kill" (1980) and "The Untouchables," (1987) two hard-nosed dramas. But he also helmed turkeys like "Bonfire of the Vanities" in 1990.
Now, with "Mission to Mars," it's time again to pass the gravy and stuffing.
Bottom line: This trip to Mars takes forever. Once you get there, you'll want to follow the example of another space traveler and phone home.
But space junkies, take heart: Two more films about that great beyond are coming soon. Clint Eastwood is starring in the impending "Space Cowboys," and "Red Planet," starring Val Kilmer, is due out next November.
Make those your mission, and avoid this one.
"Mission to Mars" opens nationwide Friday and is rated PG with a running time of 118 minutes.
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Official 'Mission to Mars' site
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