MY FAVORITE MARTIAN
Release Date: February 12, 1999
Runtime: 90 minutes
Director: Donald Petrie
Writer: Sherri Stoner & Deanna Oliver
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In the beginning, a cheesy-looking Mars probe runs out of power just before coming to a hidden civilization on Mars, a grandiose 1930s back-to-the-future vision of a Mars mega-tropolis. Back on earth, Tim O'Hara (played by the winsome Jeff Daniels) is a reporter trying to get his big break at a Santa Barbara TV station. He is also attracted to the station manager's daughter, a spoiled brat named Brace (Elizabeth Hurley).
When Brace goofs up on television, while covering a Vandenberg space shuttle launching, she blames Tim, and he gets fired. On the way home, Tim sees a Martian spacecraft crash. The 1950s looking Martian disguises himself as a human being played by the witty, but sometimes over-the-top Christopher Lloyd. To hide his spacecraft, he reduces it in size, but Tim picks the spaceship up and takes it back to his apartment. The Martian follows Tim to get back his spacecraft. After a brief skirmish, Tim and the Martian, who now calls himself Uncle Martin, settle into a mutually beneficial arrangement, at least from Martin's point of view. Martin's suit, by the way, has a sense of humor, talks and lusts after earth clothes.
Tim, while befriending Martin, wants to get his big story break by secretly videotaping him. The space authority is trying to track down the strange comet that landed near Santa Barbara. They catch up with Brace, who realizes that Tim is onto something. Soon, Tim realizes that Brace is no good and that the love of his life is an associate producer at the TV station. Martin gets captured, the dissection is about to begin and a rousing last act produces some surprising twists.
Jeff Daniels deserves special commendation for being a good guy, when all around him falls apart. DUMB AND DUMBER would not have made it without his success at being an innocent patsy. Christopher Lloyd is quite humorous but sometimes loses control of himself, as he goes over the top. However, in all, the acting and the direction are quite serviceable. Everything works to a moderate degree. The weakness is the script that doesn't know how to sustain the spoof, the action and the suspense at the same time. So MY FAVORITE MARTIAN appears to be several different movies at once. 14-year-olds may not notice this, however.
There are many moral virtues in this film. Jeff's character tries to hold up morality when all around him is falling apart. Regrettably, it is the falling apart which creates the problems. Martin's suit has a real affinity for lust and sex. Some comments in the movie, as well a scene where the suit demonstrates breasts, are just unnecessary. Furthermore, when Martin gets depressed, he starts falling apart literally ( physically arms and legs fall off. He says this happens to all Martians, but one little girl in front of me at the screening thought this was pretty horrifying and started crying. Also, to escape the secrete service, Martin reduces Tim's car to toy size so that they can go through the sewers. They come up in a toilet just as an overweight man sits down. When they explode back on the scene, they are covered in fecal matter. Finally, Tim's girlfriend, chooses some Martian transforming gun to change herself into an alien monster so they can escape from the secret service laboratory. This monster is quite frightening, and not young child friendly.
The problem may be is that it is harder and harder for movies to reach broad audiences. Producers don't want their movie to be seen as too soft like MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, or too harsh like BLADE, and sometimes they get lost trying to figure out what 14-year-olds would like to see. Frankly, the story is the essence of the movie, which captures the attention of a 14-year-old. Thus, it is better to work on the story and save the director, or whoever else is involved, from having to add offensive, scatological content to attract attention.