Tim Burton's weird sense of humor is all over this holiday release, his
best satire to date. If you remember all the Fifties sci-fi movies with
cheesy pie plate 'flying saucers', and even if you don't, "Mars Attacks"
will keep you laughing from first to last. When the little green Martians
arrive they are greeted by a celestial cast of characters hitting every
stereotype - including those which recent films like "Independence
Day" helped to perpetuate.
After working with Burton on "Batman", Jack Nicholson was the
natural choice for the bumbling President concerned about how he will put
the right spin on the spinning saucers. Another Burton "Batman Returns"
alum is Danny DeVito, known only as 'rude gambler'. Going from Dalmatians
to aliens, Glenn Close is the fussy first lady. This being a violent sort
of movie, you can try to figure out who is going to be left as bones by
the alien ray guns and who deserves it most. Natalie Portman, who was the
bright spot in this year's "Beautiful Girls", is also the bright
spot in the White House as the First Daughter eating pizza in her black
canopy bed. Over at the Pentagon, Rod Steiger is ready to nuke the newcomers
while Paul Winfield tries to moderate the military response. And in Las
Vegas, Jack Nicholson is also a wheeling-dealing hotel owner married to
Annette Bening, a New Age nut case. Being in Vegas explains the presence
of Tom Jones, singer, and Jim Brown, heroic big guy. Some of the funniest
moments come from Pierce Brosnan as a scientist turned into a lab experiment
(that's not a typo, you have to see it), and Burton "Ed Wood"
alum Sarah Jessica Parker, reporter turned into - well, you'll see. And
let's not forget the slacker, Lukas Haas, who loves his grandma, Sylvia
Sidney, even though the rest of his trailer-park family don't love him.
Truly a remarkable cast and given a super script by Jonathan Gems based
on the Topps trading card series, of all things.
Tim Burton's warped vision permeates the film. The designers at Industrial
Light and Magic (creators of the Martians) watched "Edward Scissorhands"
and "Nightmare Before Christmas" to get a feel for what Burton
would want in his aliens. It may not be easy to make a convincing modern
B-movie, but Burton and company have succeeded in a big way with these nasty
little buggers. Rated R