Making the Grades
Tim Burton is the king of odd little stop motion creatures that live in dark and evil plots. Mars Attacks follows in the same vein, but fails not only because most of its content is inappropriate for families but also because it's a bad movie that's trying to be a bad movie.
Confused? Well, remember those sci-fi movies from the 1950's? Mars Attacks is trying hard to be just as funny as those films appear now. However Burton didn't take two things into account. First, those old movies are hilarious because humor grows with age. Most of the comedy comes from the fact that we were once scared of those black and white beasts that were created with less special effects than what's inside our camcorders today. Now that our fears have been conquered, those antique characters are downright ridiculous.
The other problem is Burton is trying to recreate a low budget classic by spending millions of dollars. Expensive effects and big names like Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Martin Short, and many others doesn't help us believe that this is accidentally funny. And having Tom Jones play himself as a tacky Vegas performer was almost cruel -- he seems to be taking himself and his music much too seriously to be laughed at.
Mars Attacks may make families feel alienated. Parents won't find it funny, and little kids will be scared of the space creatures, just like we were once. Meanwhile, teens will lock onto the many sexual innuendos including one scene of a couple making love while panting little green men peer through their window. Obviously a movie about human annihilation will have a lot of violence, and the effect used when people are shot with rayguns may be especially disturbing for young children.
If you still yearn for a tacky saucer flic, ask your video store to find you some real 1950's classics. Maybe fifty years from now when no one can remember Jack Nicholson, Mars Attacks may become the campy movie it was originally intended to be.