The first scene of “Mars Attacks!” involves a stampede of flaming cows that one character thinks smells like barbecue.
If you think that is funny, you’ll love this film. If you think it is contrived, worthless or stupid, don’t waste your money.
From my perspective, “Mars Attacks!” was hilarious. It ranks up there with “Animal House” and “Airplane” as one of the best spoofs of all time. It is outrageous, and the laughs don’t stop from the Warner Brothers logo at the beginning of the film until the end of the credits.
Not only that, but this movie has one of the most impressive cast of characters - comedic and otherwise - ever assembled.
Even on paper, the story of “Mars Attacks!” is hilarious. A huge fleet of Martian ships surround Earth and one lands in the desert of Nevada. While the meeting between cultures is intended to be peaceful, something sets off the aliens, and they open fire on the unsuspecting crowds.
Then, claiming a cultural “misunderstanding,” the Martian ambassador is allowed to speak in front of the U.S. Congress. Unfortunately, the alien decides to open fire on that group as well, and a full-scale war ensues.
To describe any more of the plot would be giving its complexity way too much credit.
Jack Nicholson stars as the president of the United States. He plays a fairly stereotypical role of a somewhat dense leader. One comment he makes after Congress is destroyed exemplifies his character. Only the legislative branch was destroyed, he mugs, and “two out of three ain’t bad!”
Glenn Close is the equally absent-minded first lady and Natalie Portman is the cynical daughter who hates her parents, making for a first family not to be forgotten.
The delightfully narrow-minded members of the president’s cabinet make for non-stop laughs, as well. Martin Short is the press secretary, to whom everything is a wonderful publicity opportunity.
Rod Steiger is a military leader who wants to annihilate the Martians, and repeatedly asks the president to allow the use of nuclear weapons. On the other side of the spectrum is Pierce Brosnan, a scientist who is convinced the Martians are much too advanced to be coming with anything but peaceful intentions.
The comparisons between “Independence Day” and “Mars Attacks!” are inevitable, but truly unfair to both. They are drastically different movies and neither can hope to accomplish what the other does.
Despite this, the special effects (results of the “unique vision” of director Tim Burton) in “Mars Attacks!” are clever and entertaining, if not as large-scale as those of “ID4.”
But can “ID4” claim a stampede of flaming cows? I think not.
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