[Screen It]


(1996) (Jack Nicholson, Annette Bening) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild Moderate Mild Mild *Extreme
Minor None Mild None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Moderate Moderate None Minor *Extreme

Comedy: Martians invade Earth in this spoof of 1950's paranoid sci-fi films.
Martian ships surround Earth eliciting varying responses from different people in different places. President Dale (JACK NICHOLSON), and his press secretary Jerry Ross (MARTIN SHORT) see this as a good public relations opportunity, while First Lady Marsha Dale (GLENN CLOSE) and daughter Taffy (NATALIE PORTMAN) aren't as crazy about the idea. Professor Donald Kessler (PIERCE BROSNAN) thinks the Martians come in peace while warmonger Gen. Decker (ROD STEIGER) wants to attack right away. In Las Vegas, real estate mogul Art Land (JACK NICHOLSON) is busy building a casino while wife Barbara (ANNETTE BENING) attends AA meetings. Casino employee and former boxer Byron Williams (JIM BROWN) wants to go to D.C. to visit his wife Louise Williams (PAM GRIER) and kids, while Vegas star Tom Jones (as himself) keeps belting out the tunes. Meanwhile the Norris clan, including dad Glenn (JOE DON BAKER), donut store employee Richie (LUKAS HAAS) and Sharona (CHRISTINA APPLEGATE) watch army inductee Billy Glenn Norris (JACK BLACK) head of to defend the planet. Finally, competitive reporters and lovers Jason Stone (MICHAEL J. FOX) and Nathalie Lake (SARAH JESSICA PARKER) race to the location of the first contact to cover the story and get the possible first interview with the Martians. But when the Martians kill the military representative, Gen. Casey (PAUL WINFIELD), and others, mass panic ensues. The Martians then scheme to rid the planet of humans, while the survivors fight to defend themselves.
If they liked "Independence Day" they'll beg to see this one.
For sci-fi fantasy violence and brief sexuality.
None of the characters are developed enough to be considered as role models.


OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Director Tim Burton (Batman, Edward Scissorhands) pays homage to the 1950's paranoid, sci-fi, alien invasion movies and the all-star Irwin Allen disaster flicks of the 1970's in this big budget film. With the spacecraft, technical equipment and acting styles taken straight from those sci-fi movies, Burton creates a movie that's fun to watch, but ultimately falls victim to its own outrageousness. It will obviously be compared to last summer's "Independence Day," and will also appear to be a spoof of that movie, but in reality this film was supposed to be released earlier this year but was pushed back to avoid competing against that mega-hit. It shares with that movie a huge cast, alien invaders, and a lot of destruction on Earth. But where "ID4" was designed to be a big, patriotic and testosterone filled extravaganza, "Mars Attacks" goes for the funny bone instead. There are some funny moments, the Martians' expressions are hilarious and the demise of Martians is a clever and funny take of how they're eliminated in "The War of the Worlds." While the spoof quality is fun for a while, it begins to wear thin and by the end is nearly gone as this turns into a big special effects mess. Sharing its plot deficiencies with its cinematic forbearers, this movie fails in that you don't care about anyone in the film (partially due to the size of the cast) and the plot certainly won't keep you on the edge of your seats. It's almost as if Burton made this to be spoofed on Mystery Science Theater 3000, instead of making a clever film poking fun at 1950's sci-fi genre. If you want a mindless, big budget version of those old movies, then this one's for you. We give it a 5 out of 10.
The biggest issue of note would be the violence, although a great deal of it is played out in a cartoonish way reminiscent of Saturday morning TV shows. While some of it's graphic (a finger's bit off, people are vaporized into skeletons, and disembodied (but still alive) heads are seen), it's intended to be funny and not shocking or gory. Younger kids might be scared by all of the mayhem and by the appearance of the Martians (with their skull heads, bulging eyeballs and huge exposed brains), but older kids will probably find it "cool looking." There's a little bit of profanity (3 "s" words being the worst), and some drinking and smoking. The worst of the sexual content involves a rocking camper with a man seen on top of a woman under the sheets while some Martians anxiously watch. Since your kids are probably going to want to see this film, we suggest you read through the category listings before allowing them to do so.

  • Art drinks cocktails in several scenes and his wife, Barbara is a self admitted alcoholic, but she admits that she hasn't had a drink in three months. Later, after the invasion, she's seen drinking again.
  • People in the Las Vegas casinos are seen drinking cocktails.
  • Art says that he wants all of his limos to have fully stocked bars.
  • Jerry fixes martinis for himself and a woman (actually a Martian posing as their idea of a woman).
  • A nuclear missile explosion is sucked up into a balloon-like device and returned to the Martian spaceship. A Martian than sucks in the nuclear material (from a pipe-like device) and then chatters away in an altered voice. This could be a joke on inhaling helium, or marijuana, or could be there just to be funny.
  • A herd of cattle engulfed in flames runs by a farm house.
  • Two kids play "Flesh Eaters," a video arcade game where they shoot an animated person on screen. With every shot, more parts of his body are blown away, revealing bones and body organs (it's not as gory as it sounds -- after all, it's animated).
  • A man is vaporized and all that's left of him is his cut off hand that's a little bloody on the stump.
  • Professor Kessler performs an autopsy on a Martian and sticks his hand into its brain and pulls out a clump of green goo.
  • Nathalie's head is seen sewn to her dog's body and vice versa. While it's not necessarily gory (although the rough stitching is seen), it will probably be unsettling to some viewers.
  • Professor Kessler has been dissected by the Martians, but is still alive. His body parts (arms, legs, etc...) hang from the ceiling and his head is seen attached to other equipment. While it's not played to be scary, some blood does drip from his severed neck. Later his and Nathalie's heads roll around on the floor of a spacecraft, and again while it's not played to be scary, some kids might be spooked by what they're seeing.
  • A woman (actually a Martian posing as their idea of a woman) bites off Jerry's finger as he sticks it in her mouth to remove her chewing gum. The slightly bloody finger ends up in an aquarium and Jerry's hand is seen without the finger (also just a little bloody). When he yanked his hand away from her/its mouth, he also pulled out part of her/its face, exposing the Martian teeth below the mask.
  • A man is shrunken down to miniature size and then stepped on by a Martian and some blood squirts out from under its boot.
  • As the Martians are killed, their heads explode in big globs of green goo.
  • Obviously the Martians have both as they unprovokedly attack Earth.
  • Billy Glenn calls his brother Richie "retard" and their father comments to the fact that they couldn't expect both sons to be like Billy Glenn (showing favoritism toward him).
  • The appearance of the Martians may be scary to younger kids. They have a skull-like face with little droplets of skin hanging from it. Their teeth are exposed and their huge brains can be seen.
  • As the humans are shot by the Martians' laser guns, the people disintegrate into half body, half skeletons and then completely into skeletons. This may be too much for younger kids to handle.
  • Richie speeds down the desert roads in his truck as he's chased by a large mechanical beast that chases and nearly catches him.
  • Rifle: Seen being put together by a blindfolded Billy Glenn.
  • Toy guns: Used by two kids to play an arcade video game where they shoot an animated man on the screen.
  • Laser Guns: Fired by the Martians and by the Martian ships to disintegrate people and destroy buildings and other property.
  • Rifles: Fired at the beginning of a 21-gun salute.
  • Machine guns/hand guns: Fired by the military back at the Martians.
  • Nuclear Missile: Fired by the U.S. at a Martian spaceship.
  • Phrases: "Screw the press," "Shut up," "Retard," and "Idiots."
  • None.
  • There is some dramatically suspenseful music that occurs throughout the movie. If you've seen any of the other Tim Burton directed/Danny Elfman scored movies (Batman, Beetlejuice, etc...) it has that same sound. At other times, the music/sound effects are reminiscent of the old 1950's sci-fi movies (with the "whirring" sci-fi sound) that this is spoofing.
  • None.
  • 3 "s" words, 7 hells, 2 "ass" words, 1 crap, and 1 use each of "Oh God," "Oh Christ," "Oh my God," "My God," and "Jesus Christ" as exclamations.
  • Jason asks Nathalie (his girlfriend) if she's wearing a bra while they talk on the phone.
  • Jerry Ross has his limo stop at a corner to talk to several prostitutes. They ask him if he wants a date, but nothing occurs after that.
  • An androgynous looking reporter asks the President if the Martians have two sexes like humans.
  • The top part of Billy Glenn's bare butt is seen as his military pants ride down on him.
  • A Martian looks at an issue of Playboy magazine and unfold the centerfold but the woman's front is covered and thus no nudity is seen.
  • Jerry picks up a woman (actually a Martian posing as their idea of a woman) and in the scene where he's talking to her, the only part of her seen is her cone shaped breast that fills the left side of the screen. He then takes her back to the "Kennedy" room of the White House thinking he'll have sex with her, but he doesn't get the chance.
  • A camper is seen rocking back and forth from the sexual activity inside. There, a man is seen under the covers on top of a woman and there is some sexual movement. Some Martians are also seen peering in through the window, their helmets fogged up from their excitement of watching the couple.
  • Professor Kessler smokes a pipe throughout the movie.
  • Art and Barbara smoke cigarettes.
  • People in the Las Vegas casinos are seen smoking.
  • People at an AA meeting smoke cigarettes.
  • None.
  • Was (is) there life on Mars.
  • A grandmother jokes about Congress being blown up. Attitudes toward the Government and deaths of people in general could be discussed.
  • At the first Mars/Earth meeting, The Martian Ambassador blasts a dove and then his comrades open fire on everyone else. Nearly everyone there is vaporized and many explosions erupt and tower structures fall onto the viewing stands.
  • The Martians wipe out Congress and many members are disintegrated in a fiery mess, leaving many skeletons in their wake. Prof. Kessler is knocked unconscious and taken away.
  • A Martian bites off Jerry's finger and then bashes him over the head, knocking him unconscious.
  • The First dog is incinerated and a Martian then holds his laser gun on the President's head. The Secret Service follows and finally shoots the Martian dead.
  • A Martian spaceship blasts an airliner and then causes the Washington Monument to fall on a troop of boy scouts (the latter played for laughs).
  • A White House tour guide is incinerated, a Martian killed, and the First Lady is crushed by a falling chandelier.
  • Two kids grab a Martian laser gun and then begin killing the Martians.
  • Art's Vegas hotel tower collapses and everyone inside is killed.
  • A nuclear missile is fired at a Martian spaceship but the explosion is sucked up inside a balloon-like device away from the ship.
  • A man is shrunken down to miniature size and then stepped on by a Martian and some blood squirts out from under its boot.
  • A Martian hand turns into a sharpened rod and impales a man through his body, killing him.
  • Byron punches many Martians as he boxes with them, until they finally gang up and beat him. Later he steps on the head of a dead Martian and squashes it.

  • Reviewed December 10, 1996

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