LOST IN SPACEPG-13
The latest vehicle to emerge from Hollywood's never-ending recycling program is an updated, unwieldy version of 'Lost in Space,' the show based on a terrific high concept: Swiss Family Robinson adrift among the stars. Whereas that program could be considered a trendsetter, paving the way for Star Trek, Star Wars and other space-exploration adventures, the current film is a hodgepodge of influences and devices without its own look or effective narrative structure.The problems are apparent from the very first sequence, a fierce space battle a la George Lucas, introducing us to the heroics of Don West (Matt LeBlanc). While technically proficient, this entire scene plays like an outtake from Star Wars, and a feeling of deja vu sets in before any of the major characters is even introduced.
The year is 2058, and Dr. John Robinson (William Hurt) is in charge of a mission to a galaxy far, far away (whoops, wrong movie), as it becomes more imperative for the citizens of Earth to discover new ways of living off the increasingly used-up planet. The hook is that Robinson will be accompanied on this mission on the Jupiter II by his nuclear (as in close, not radioactive) family, which includes wife Maureen (Mimi Rogers), twenty-something daughter Judy (Heather Graham), adolescent daughter Penny (Lacey Chabert) and 10-year-old science whiz son Will (Jack Johnson).
Also along for the ride are the all-purpose talking Robot (brought nostalgically to life by original voice Dick Tufeld), the evil Dr. Smith (Gary Oldman), who gets stuck on the ship during a bad job of sabotage, and Don West, pilot extraordinaire. Shortly after they blast off, things go awry due to Dr. Smith's meddling, and the crew, forced to abandon its original plans, finds itself lost in space. From this point on, the already flimsy plot gives way to an episodic structure as the Robinsons et al try to get back to where they once belonged. Coming upon an abandoned ship, the family finds other forms of life: a cute, monkey-like creature who eventually turns into a pet; and a race of nasty giant spiders who are not too happy that their web site has been invaded.
Escaping in the nick of time (surprised?), they next are forced to crash-land on a remote planet which serves as the locale for the rest of the film. Search for fuel results in a lot of mumbo-jumbo about time travel, an alternate universe in which an older Will lives with a mutated, half-human, half-spider Dr. Smith, and another last-minute rescue just in time for a sequel.
Stephen Hopkins' direction, along with the Jupiter II, makes for a very bumpy ride, and Akiva Goldsman's rickety script is filled with one-dimensional characters and stale dialogue. As for the cast: Hurt makes for a solid if not terribly interesting John Robinson, while LeBlanc is more wooden than dashing. Oldman is always fun to watch, but his semi-Shakespearean Dr. Smith doesn't always work. The rest of the cast struggles gamely, but the key to reinventing 'Lost in Space' for a new generation is not to be found here.