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Thursday, October 20, 2011

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 67 - Lost in Space (1998)

People who watch a lot of movies are never surprised by how bad some child actors can be.  Lost in Space reminded us that the bar can get pretty low.  But the child actors aren’t the only problem with this film.  The entire cast is wooden, stiff and boring and all are mired in a messy, over-stuffed, over-silly plot that will leave anyone dumbfounded by the conclusion.  

The plot follows the Robinson family, a hot-dog pilot and a stowaway with evil intent who test-drive a ship that can jump around space quicker than any ship before using a sort of space/time bending plot device.  After the vile Dr. Smith (Gary Oldman) sabotages the family ship, they end up hurtling towards the sun, so to escape certain death, they teleport to a random location in space and find themselves completely lost (in space).

From the very start of the film audiences will notice the lack of any emotion... from anyone.  We see the daughter, Penny, filming a personal video diary that, upon re-watching, conjures up images of “LEAVE BRITTANY ALONE!!!”.  Penny is played by Lacey Chabert.  Her voice is shrill, and we know we’re going to get really tired of her, really fast, and while she’s still working today, she’s mostly resigned to smaller projects.  Young Will Robinson is played by Jack Johnson.  He is mostly forgotten today.  These two actors drag the film to a halt.  It’s not particularly nice to pick on kids in movies, and some really influential critics (some very influential to me, personally) have criticized others who have taken that approach before.  However, it is really hard to avoid talking about these two stars’ performances in Lost in Space as they are a major part of what went wrong with the film.

As far as the other actors, William Hurt seems bored, Mimi Rogers is given little to do, and Matt LeBlanc is channeling every space hero that tried to mimic Han Solo badly.  The only actor that is even given anything significant to do is Gary Oldman.  I love Oldman as an actor and he can make a memorable character out of poorly-written schlock.  Here, however, you can tell he’s being held back, and for that I blame the director.  Lastly, I actually completely forgot that Heather Graham was in this movie.  Really.  Here, as the Robinson family's eldest doctor daughter, she really exists only to give LeBlanc's character someone to swoon over, and to be someone to be taken hostage and to end up in danger (of course). 

Stephen Hopkins directed this boring disaster and his signature faux-bombast is on display.  If you are not familiar with Hopkins’ work, he directed the laughably bad The Ghost and the Darkness (which occupies #78 on this list), Predator 2 and Blown Away (a film that almost made my list but was just too boring and unspectacular to be recognized as truly “bad”).  He doesn’t have a massively successful filmography like the equally-bad (if not worse) Michael Bay, but he has definitely left a legacy with this one.

So why is this one so bad (besides the bad child actors and weak director)?  Well it can be partly attributed to the absurd plot and some of the dumbest action scenes I’ve ever seen.  I refer you to the scene where Will Robinson remotely controls his robot like a video game using a VR simulator.  It is meant to look cool but is so silly you can’t help but laugh.  Add a CGI pet monkey and a time paradox ending that is so laughable it actual seems stupid compared to the rest of the movie (and that is really saying something) and you have one of the worst TV-film reboots in cinema history.

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