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July 05, 1996 - Image 73

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-07-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

PHOTO BY ZADE RO SENTHAL

STN Entertainment

'Independence Day'

Rated PG-13

hat do you want from us?" Pres-
ident Whitman (Bill Pullman)
asks the wounded alien prison-
er of war. One word ... trans-
mitted telepathically: "Die."
In a film that pays magnificent homage
to the popular genre of disaster films, In-
dependence Day is an epic adventure
mounted on a colossal scale of monu-
mental proportions. Kudos to the art
director who imagined the spectacular
vistas of 15 miles-in-diameter spaceships
blotting out the skies over Washington,
D.C., New York and Los Angeles. By
sheer scope, this is easily the most im-
pressive visual-effects film you are like-
ly to see this summer.
Further accolades to the sound mixers
who rattled and rumbled the theater seats
with monster bass tones and high fre-
quency hums that perfectly comple-
mented the visual effects. Director
Roland Emmerich, who cut his
M
teeth on the surprise hit Stargate,
now has a thrilling story to hang his
chops on.
An all-star ensemble cast exemplifies
heroism, selfless courage and patriotism
—just the right amount of sentiment for
this extraterrestrial extravaganza. When
you hear the president step up on his bul-
ly pulpit and launch into his freedom
speech to the allied troops waiting to go
into battle to protect the Earth, you're
ready to join the fray. And because the
president is a former Top Gun, whose
family has been nearly decimated by the
invaders, you just know it's going to be
payback time.
Not in ways you expect though. Inde-
pendence Day's canvas is too broad to
leave all the heroics to one man.
David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), a ca-
ble TV technical engineer and computer
genius, is the first to decode the aliens'
intent. His fetish to passionately protect
the environment, and coincidental link
with the White House through his ex-wife

Constance (Margaret Cokin), may just
provide Earth's answer. David's cur-
mudgeon father, Julius (Judd Hirsch),
has wisdom and historical knowledge, al-
beit somewhat unconventional, that
might present the solution to withstand-
ing invaders whose sole intent is hu-
manity's annihilation.
In the film's direst hour, Julius asks all
to join hands and begins a Hebrew prayer.
Someone blurts out, "I'm not Jewish."
Without skipping a beat, Julius replies,
"Nobody's perfect." These stirring char-
acters use intelligence and imagination
to counteract the invaders' superior tech-
nology.
All the characters, from Captain Steven
Hiller (Will Smith), the military's best jet
pilot, right on down to Russell (Randy
Quaid), a ragtag pilot and crop duster,
who was allegedly abducted by aliens 10
years earlier and wants revenge, have
life-affirming goals. Mary Mc-
Donnell is affecting as the will-
OVIES
ful first lady.
Each supporting role show-
cases humankind's indomitable spirit,
honor, valor and unquenchable will to re-
sist the overwhelming, otherworldly alien
threat. Robert Loggia as General Grey,
the president's understudy; Harvey Fier-
stein as Marty, the cable station manag-
er; Vivica Fox as Jasmine, an exotic
dancer; Harry Connick Jr. as a hot dog
Top Gun — all staunchly defend the
Earth in their own inimitable styles.
Look for nods to 2001: A Space Odyssey,

Alien, Dr. Strangelove, Earth vs. The Fly-
ing Saucers, The Right Stuff, The Day the
Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, E.T.,
Close Encounters of the Third Kind and

many other classic science fiction films.

Independence Day should take its place

in this panoply of unforgettable films.

— Dick Roc well

Vivica Fox plays a courageous mother who finds herself and her son (Ross Bagley) in the aftermath of an
incredible attack.

John Travolta plays a small-town mechanic who tries to win the love of Kyra Sedgwick.

'Phenomenon'

Rated PG

T

ake two dashes of The Celestine
Prophesy, sprinkle it with a dollop

of UFO sightings, add a pinch of Uri
Geller's spoon bending, and you've
got Phenomenon, the "supposed-to-make-
you-feel-good movie" of the summer.
My cynical side wants to lambaste this
New Age gobbledygook as soul food for the
spiritually malnourished. But, my senti-
mental side wants to embrace this tale of
ordinary man George Malley (John Tra-
volta), a small-town auto mechanic whose
life is changed by a bolt from the blue.
On the evening of his 37th birthday,
George wondrously becomes a savant of
sorts, able to learn foreign Languages
overnight, develop 90-miles-per-gallon au-
tomobile fuel out of pig poop and play
chess like Bobby Fisher — although with
a lot more humility. George's mental
prowess expands at a prodigious rate.
Soon, he is reading unabridged encyclo-
pedias overnight, growing garden toma-
toes the size of bowling balls and designing
miniature solar-energy systems that
would put the Biod pme to shame.
For a simple man, this newfound ge-
nius has unexpected consequences.
Though George's Sonoma Valley friends
possess great fondness for him, his unex-
plained powers soon invite suspicion. He
correctly predicts an impending earth-
quake. He locates a missing child. He
moves objects by sheer willpower. Through
all this, George still manages to project an
aura of unaffected decency.
Sadly, George can't get to first base with
Lace (Kyra Sedgwick), whose fetching
smile conceals a cautious romantic. With
puppy-like persistence, George eventual-
ly charms Lace, her children — and the
whole movie audience, for that matter.
Phenomenon projects such a whole-
some, caring atmosphere that no one may
mind that not much is going on here.
Robert Duvall, as the town doctor, is as
homespun as a corncob pipe. George's bud-
dy Nate (Forrest Whitaker), a farmer and

ham radio operator, spends his lonely
nights swooning for Diana Ross. One night
Nate accidentally intercepts a mysterious
coded transmission on his ham system. It
intrigues George, whose burgeoning in-
tellect cannot resist a new challenge, so
he playfully decodes it and tells Nate to
signal back. The FBI swoops down on
George like an eagle on a field mouse.
(Sure, the Feds are still using Morse Code
to send covert instructions to their oper-
atives.)
As in Charly and Powder, all good
things, particularly sudden genius, must
come to an end. George only wants to
share his new knowledge in the most be-
nign ways. Given a few minutes, he would
plot more efficient routes for his local
postal carrier or partition the local tav-
ern's parking lot to allow for seven more
vehicles — hardly the stuff the govern-
ment should be concerned about. But be-
cause they can't comprehend his lack of
ulterior motives, the government consid-
ers George a security risk. Taken into cus-
tody, George is interrogated by Dr. Bob
("Star Trek TNG's" Brent Spiner) in one
of the most humorous Mensa tests in his-
tory.
Look for a touching performance from
John Travolta, appealing as ever. Kyra
Sedgwick (who was so luminous in the un-
derrated Heart and Souls) exudes com-
passion and sensuousness, particularly in
a love scene which lifts palpable images
from Ghost — this time with shaving
cream instead of potter's clay. The eulo-
gistic coda to Phenomenon offers a sooth-
ing reverie on George's life and a
perspective on human life in general —
big or small, smart or simple. But, if this
film had taken the path of true genius —
rather than a derivative of all of the films
I've mentioned above — now, that would
be a real phenomenon.

Q.11 ) . bagels

—Dick Rockwell

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