new releases

Lost In Space (PG) 109 mins .* 1r

Following hard on the heels of Mission: Impossible and The Saint, and with The Avengers just around the corner, Lost In Space is the latest cult TV series from the 605 to get a hi-tech 90$ makeover. But although director Stephen Hopkins' new film boasts state-of-the-art special effects, at heart it's every bit as cheesy as legendary producer Irwin Allen's old show.

Fans of the series should be happy. The new film sticks closely to the plot and characters of the original, while cameos from some of the old stars will keep the most ardent of TV trainspotters content. For those without a prior emotional investment in the film, however, Lost In Space represents a wearying prospect.

The film opens with an eye- numbingly kinetic dogfight in outer space that is either an affectionate homage to or a blatant rip-off of Star i v. Wars. It's 2058 (the TV series was set l g in 1997 - how the future recedes), “*’ . and the United Global Space Force is preparing to send Professor John Robinson (William Hurt) and his family to colonise the distant planet of Alpha Prime.

However, a bunch of nebulous terrorists known as Global Sedition are intent on throwing a spanner in the works. Cowardly saboteur Dr Smith (Gary Oldman) manages to thwart the mission, but ends up stranded on board the jupiter II with the Robinsons and their pilot Major Don West (Matt LeBlanc playing a variation on his Friends role of dim-witted hunk) as the spacecraft hurtles millions of miles off course.

The set-up ought to give the filmmakers ample scope for trashy, undemanding fun, but screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (responsible for the atrocious Batman And Robin) has unfortunately decided to give the story a 'meaningful' modern spin. The Robinsons are no longer


Star Kid: Lacey Chabert in Lost In Space

simply a nuclear family in outer space, they are a dysfunctional family of galactic castaways.

Brilliant scientists both, the Robinson parents are so intent on saving the world that they have no time for their children. The neglected kids accordingly seek comfort elsewhere. Rebellious teen Penny (an intensely irritating performance from Lacey Chabert) gains a cute, chameleon-like space monkey as a pet, while her ten- year-old whiz-kid brother finds solace with the ship’s robot. Most viewers, however, will sympathise with Oldman's craven Dr Smith as he bitchin sneers that every crisis on board ship is 'an excuse for familial sentiment'. (Jason Best)

& General release from Fri 37 Jul

Animal Hospital: Eddie Murphy and friend in Dr Dolittle

Dr Dolittle

Everyone thinks he's nuts, of course, and the story follows his manic attempts to ftilfil his destiny and share his medical knowledge With this brand new client list.

Some of the animal vciices work better than others Norm MacDonald as a smart-mouthed dog and Albert Brooks as a suicidal tiger stand out - but the ioke seems to be more in the fact that they talk, not in what they say, which seems rather like a wasth opportunity. As does the film itself, which might have benefitted from a simpler, less snappy and more family orientated tale Instead it relies on Murphy's broad appeal and comic iudgement, both of which have have been increasingly questioned in recent

(PG) 85 mins it at

How perverse of 20th Century Fox to remake a turkey from their past clearly none of the executives underwriting this dire film were SuffiCiently fluent in animal-ese to realise just how bad it w0uld be. But it is easy to see how they were thinking: Eddie Murphy, fresh from his success in another remake, The Nutty Professor, in a Wild family adventure offering

32 THE usr 23 Jul—6 Aug 1998

crude bottom humour for the Babe audience. How can it fail?

Yet after watching Dr Dolittle, you wonder how anyone thought it might succeed, as the gimmicks and cheesy morality Vie for dominance in a story so naively inept it might have been written by one of its non-human stars

Murphy plays a doctor who, in a moment of stress, rediscovers a long forgotten childhood gift for communication with lower life forms.

years. Far from offering the career boost that was antiCipated, The Nutty Professor a masterpiece in taste and comedy compared to this ~ seems to have been a blip in the actor's once meteoric career. In need of a stronger hand on the tiller than Betty Thomas can prowde, Dr Dolittle at least can boast the power of prophecy in its title. It did little for me. (Anwar Brett) a General release from Fri 37 Jul.

The Castle

(15) 86 mins * tr a

Shot on a shoestring in twenty days, The Castle lS a rough-and-ready but surprismgly engaging comedy about a naive Australian family who take on the might of a faceless corporation when their Suburban home is threatened.

A hotchpotch of bungalow and half- finished, Jerry-bunt extensions, 6 HighVieW Crescent would never feature in the pages of Architectural Digest or Hello, but for the Kerrigans it's more than a house ’it’s a home’. So when the company that is planning to expand the adjacent airport takes out a compulsory acqmsition order, tow- truck driver Darryl Kerrigan resolves to take his fight to the courts. The trouble is, he initially elects to rely on the low- rent local lawyer whose woeful forensic skills have already landed the family’s eldest son in jail.

The Kerrigans are a family of innocents. They race greyhounds, wear hideously patterned knitwear and shellsUits, and look for bargains in the local Trading Post. To metropolitan 'eyes they must seem terminally naff. In the hands of most filmmakers they would be emblems of cultural impoverishment or sooal dysfunction. But the creators of The Castle aren’t sneering. They find the Kerrigans admirable and inVite us to do the same.

Director Rob Sitch and his co-writers have already made a string of successful Australian radio and TV shows, but The Castle is their first feature. The film is dramatically awkward in places and runs out of steam before its admittedly brief 86- minute running time is up, but the team’s affection for their characters pulls it through.

The Kerrigans are good-natured, optimistic and as at ease With their multrethnic neighbours as they are With each other. 'How’s the serenity?’ Darryl asks the lofty QC he has won over to the family’s cause towards the end of the film. By this stage most Viewers Will have been won over too. (Jason Best)

a Selected release from Fri 37 Jul.

Everybody needs good neighbours; the Kerrigan family in The Castle

STAR RATINGS w t i 'k * Unmissable * w i it Very good it at: * Worth a shot it a: Below average at You've been warned