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'Independence Day' an escapist blast

July 3, 1996
Web posted at: 12:15 a.m. EDT

From Movie Reviewer Carol Buckland

(CNN) -- "Independence Day" is splendidly cheesy entertainment. Rather overblown, to be sure, but it has sure-fire appeal to the popcorn-snarfing, adolescent movie goer, including me.

The flick works best in its early reels, as the personalities of a disparate crew of people unfolds against the backdrop of the ominous arrival of lots of out-of-this-world spaceships. Among the characters are the U.S. president and a drunken Vietnam fighter-jock-turned-crop duster who claims he was once abducted by aliens.

Then comes the big ka-BOOOOOM! The aliens begin wiping out major world cities including -- just as you've seen in the trailer -- Washington, D.C.

trailer 1 trailer 2 trailer 3

Stuff starts to bog down when the earthlings manage to get their act together and (at long, long last) set off to kick some alien butt. I mean, there's no real suspense about who's going to win in the end. The biggest question is: Who among the semi-star-studded cast will survive through the closing credits?

Cast members are stuck playing cardboard characters and mouthing dopey dialogue. Still, most of them acquit themselves in nice, tongue-in-cheek style.

Bill Pullman is slightly miscast as the president. Although he exudes his usual decent appeal, he flounders badly while giving a gung-ho, before-the-final-battle speech.

Jeff Goldblum recycles the off-kilter science whiz portrayal he did in "Jurassic Park." Judd Hirsch shows up as his crotchety but cute father; the role is ethnically stereotyped to the point of being offensive.

Another stripper

scenes from the movie

Mary McDonnell, Margaret Colin and Robert Loggia do what's expected in their respective roles of the president's wife, close adviser and military mentor. Randy Quaid has a dandy time as the aforementioned crop duster who's looking for some alien payback.

Vivica Fox is spunky as a single mom who strips for a living (uh ... is this some kind of trend?!?!) and is involved with a fighter pilot played by Will Smith. Smith is the movie's scene stealer. He's smooth. He's smart. He's laugh-out-loud funny at times. He gets most of the best lines, too.

Also very good is Brent Spiner (Data, from "Star Trek: The Next Generation"). He plays a slightly crazed scientist who's been doing secret research on alien remains recovered in -- you guessed it -- Roswell, New Mexico.

The special effects range from knock-your-eyes out sensational to downright cheesy. The visuals seem secondhand -- we've seen stuff like this in other sci-fi flicks.

Roland Emmerich's direction is cartoonishly grand. If you had any fondness for his previous effort, "Stargate," you are going to love this cinematic expedition! Emmerich, however, has a tendency to let scenes run on a minute or two too long.

"Independence Day" should be huge, huge, huge at the box office. Despite its underlying "message" about how important it is for all us earthlings to hang together -- this is silly, escapist fare.

This film is rated PG-13. The world takes a beating, but the violence is rarely graphic. There's some mild profanity and a few flashes of female flesh. An icky alien autopsy scene may gross out those with delicate stomachs.

I hesitate to call this family fare, but you could do a lot worse if you're looking for a movie to see with your (not really little) kids.

Independence Day Web Site


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