(No longer in theaters)
Paul Harris Boardman, Gregory Goodman, Erwin Stoff
20th Century Fox
Dec 12, 2008
The remake of that fine old fifties alien-invasion picture The Day the Earth Stood Still—a peacenik rejoinder to all the sci-fi movies in which E.T.’s stood in for soul-sapping Commies—comes to a standstill about an hour before the Earth does in the wilds of New Jersey. Trust me, folks, Jersey turns out to be the ultimate momentum killer: The main characters, among them “renowned scientist” Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) and an alien, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), speed toward the Lincoln Tunnel—and yet, as in a bad dream, the tunnel seems to get farther and farther away. Just when we think they’re going to make it, they pull into a McDonald’s. Then they take a detour to talk philosophy with Professor Barnhardt (John Cleese), who lives deep in the Jersey woods. Meanwhile, the excellent-looking giant robot Gort, seemingly on the brink of going Godzilla on Manhattan, transforms into an unphotogenic swarm of CGI bugs and annihilates Giants Stadium. Atop their tanks in the city, members of various government forces look at their watches and noisily exhale.
Klaatu is a dream role for the beautifully blank Reeves, since he
doesn’t even have to pretend to emote. Versed in the writing of Malcolm
Gladwell, he announces that humans will have to be destroyed because
Earth has reached the tipping point, although it isn’t clear if he
means war, global warming, or the ascendancy of snark. “You treat the
world as you treat each other,” he says. “We can change,” pleads Dr.
Helen. Despite being shot, shelled, and chased into New Jersey, Klaatu
believes her, perhaps because he knows that Obama will soon be
president. As he walked to his spaceship, I had an overwhelming urge to
call out: “Klaatu, Keanu. Keanu, Klaatu. Klaatu, Obama. Obama, Klaatu.
Oprah, Keanu, Klaatu … ”