[Screen It]


(1998) (William Hurt, Gary Oldman) (PG-13)

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

Sci-fi: A family on an interplanetary space expedition becomes lost in space after a renegade doctor's terrorist plans throw them off course.
In the year 2058, the people of Earth have squandered away most of the planet's resources. Needing another planet to live on, the government begins building one of two hypergates that when completed, will allow instantaneous space travel to the other side of the universe. In the meantime, an expedition must travel for ten years to Alpha Prime, the closest inhabitable planet, to begin research there.

Not wanting to leave their kids behind, explorers John (WILLIAM HURT) and Maureen Robinson (MIMI ROGERS) take along their eldest daughter and doctor, Judy (HEATHER GRAHAM), middle child Penny (LACEY CHABERT), and their inventive son Will (JACK JOHNSON). Joining them is a reluctant military pilot, Major Don West (MATT LeBLANC), who's assigned to their flight at the last moment and sees the mission and his position as nothing more than a glorified baby-sitting job.

Unbeknownst to the crew, their Earth-based physician, Dr. Zachary Smith (GARY OLDMAN) has been paid by a group of seditionist terrorists to sabotage the crew and the mission. He tries to stop the ship's robot (voice of DICK TUFELD) from carrying out the destruction once he realizes he's stuck on board the ship after lift off. Awakening the crew from their inanimate, deep sleep, they collectively try to stop the robot, but the damage has been done. Without any navigational resources, they're forced to use their hyperdrive that, without the aide of the properly installed hypergates, randomly sends them somewhere across the universe. Realizing that they're now lost in space, the crew must figure out how to safely return to Earth.

If they're fans of the original TV show, sci-fi stories in general, or anyone in the cast, they just might.
For some intense sci-fi action.
Here's a quick look at the characters that parents might object to as role models: GARY OLDMAN plays the unscrupulously villainous Dr. Smith who continuously plots to threaten the others. MATT LeBLANC plays a gung-ho pilot with an amorous eye for Judy. WILLIAM HURT is the obsessed professor who spends more time on his mission than on his family and LACEY CHABERT is a moody teenager who isn't happy to traveling with her family. The rest of the cast members appear to be okay role models.


OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
As a kid growing up in the late sixties and early seventies, one of my favorite things to do (beyond tormenting my older sister) was to watch "Lost in Space." Seen through prepubescent eyes, the show was admittedly silly, but I -- like most other kids my age -- loved the drama, suspense, and especially the robot with those cool electrical charges "he" could emit from those metallic pincers. My next door neighbor, Lar, even went so far as to build an amazing scale model of the "Jupiter II," complete with an opening hatch door, all from nothing more than two heavy duty paper plates (In this day and age of computer games and gadgets, today's kids won't appreciate that low tech fun).

Looking back now from the perspective of an adult, however, the show was obviously pretty absurd, what with the papier-mâché boulders, ludicrously goofy costumes, and awful plots. Even so, the musical compositions were good (from a young "Johnny" Williams -- who later went on to score, oh, about a gazillion movies), there was a guest appearance by Robby the Robot (from "Forbidden Planet") and at least the first few episodes of the series were meant to be taken seriously. Then for whatever reason, the show turned goofy, ran for only a few seasons, and was then canceled to spend the rest of eternity in syndicated reruns.

With fond memories of the show stemming from my childhood, I went into the screening of New Line Cinema's big budget, big screen adaption of the TV series hoping that they'd do it some justice. Unfortunately, it appears that director Stephen Hopkins ("The Ghost And The Darkness," "Blown Away") and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman ("Batman and Robin," "A Time To Kill") were themselves lost in some sort of space when they put this clunker together.

While the film features some spectacular special effects and a few decent sequences, the producers should have spent some of the film's millions on getting a decent, gripping story, for this turns out to be one lackluster film. Not even the effects nor the impressive cast can keep this picture from being anything but a whole lot of nothing. Expect decent initial box office returns for the reminiscence factor, but a quick drop off once word of mouth gets out.

The story essentially sticks to the initial plot from the series' pilot and then throws in bits and pieces from various episodes in an attempt to please fans of the series. The Robinson family, however, isn't the homogenous nuclear unit featured so prominently in the TV show. I suppose the outlook regarding family life in the 1960's about the 1990's was a bit more optimistic than our view of the future in the 2050's.

Even so, the dysfunctional family story is a transparent plot device where you know that events will take place that will (hopefully) make you feel good once the family bonds back together again into one happy clan (there's actually even a "Goodnight" scene taken directly from the old "Waltons" TV show). I don't know about you, but if the future of mankind was hinging on one traveling space family, I wouldn't want this bunch being the one. I'd want them as happy and professional as the proverbial peas in a pod. Likewise, there's no way this family would have ever passed any sort of test to make the trip in the first place.

Then of course, there's Dr. Smith, whose accidental presence on board is the catalyst for all of them getting lost in the first place. Hamming it up as best as possible and given the film's best lines ("Trust me, evil knows evil" and "Sarcasm is the recourse of the weak mind") and with the occasional wink toward the original character played by Jonathan Harris ("We're doomed, we're all doomed," etc...), Gary Oldman is the only bright spot in an array of otherwise surprisingly dull performances. Both William Hurt (John Robinson) and Mimi Rogers (Maureen) are wasted and unbelievable in their roles, while Heather Graham, Lacey Chabert and Jack Johnson as Judy, Penny, and Will respectively all deliver decent, if not noteworthy takes on their characters.

Matt LeBlanc gives it his best shot playing Major Don West, and finally gets to show that the character really is/was a cad and continuously after Judy (unlike the more innocent proceedings on the TV show). Even so, LeBlanc is one of those actors who's unfortunately been typecast in his first big success and here he can't completely shake his TV role of Joey from "Friends." While one hopes otherwise, his presence may just be the jinx or kiss of death for this flick (all of the cast members from "Friends," except Courteney Cox, have crashed and burned in every one of their big screen efforts).

While the film starts off with a funny homage/cameo featuring June Lockhart (the original Maureen -- there are other cameos as well from former cast members), and includes moments and lines from the TV show ("Crush! Kill! Destroy!") it makes a horrendous mistake by bringing back Penny's pet "monkey." In the original it was Debbie, her pet "bloop" (presumably named after the sound it made), a chimpanzee wearing some sort of strange headdress to make it look "alien." Here we get a blawp, an odd monkey-like creature (created by computer effects and animatronic puppetry) that looks like a hyped up version of Abu (with much bigger eyes) the little monkey from the Disney cartoon "Aladdin."

Its presence does nothing for the story except destroy the fine line of credibility is was trying to establish. In addition, despite the film's other technical achievements, this little critter continually looks fake. While it's something of a step higher than using a real chimp, it's really just an obvious tie-in with some toy company that will undoubtably and inevitably sell stuffed toy versions of it. It's also surprising that it looks so bad considering how well they carry off the other effects and the fact that Silicon Graphics (the computers that most often are used to generate movie special effects) gets an in-movie plug as one of the Jupiter II's sponsors.

Despite the occasional eye popping special effects and a handful of interesting scenes (an opening dogfight, the attacking robot, and the attacking spider-like creatures sequence), Hopkins and Goldsman have concocted what turns out to be a rather boring movie. There's absolutely no excitement or suspense to the pre-lift off scenes and once in space, the movie is easy to watch, but certainly not engaging. The movie eventually gets around to some hokey time travel material (blatantly telegraphed quite early in a scene involving Will's science project that might as well have had a plaque reading, "To be used later in the movie") that might have been interesting had it been developed and then executed properly. As it stands, however, it comes off as nothing more than yet another uneventful sequence in the film.

Although I really wanted to like this film -- and it tries really hard to please fans of the series -- there are just so many "down" times that the picture eventually loses any of the momentum it had been building. The ending -- dealing with that weakly executed time travel plot -- even reverts back to the fake looking sets from the original series (albeit using a better material than papier- mache) as if the filmmakers had run out of money presenting all of the bang in the earlier scenes.

If you're a big fan of the TV series, don't go in with high expectations and you might just enjoy the film, but probably won't leave loving it. Filled with some spectacular effects and an easy to watch cast, the film isn't terrible by any means -- it's just not as good as it could, and should, have been. We give "Lost In Space" a 5 out of 10.

A little bit of cussing, some sci-fi violence, and a few scenes that may be intense for the youngest of kids highlight this film's material. Four "s" words are the worst among the limited profanity. Some ships are blown up and there's some brief sci-fi related fighting. And there are a few tense scenes, particularly involving some quite large, spider-like creatures that scamper after the crew that might prove to be intense for younger viewers. Beyond the dysfunctional family plot, many of the other categories have little or no objectionable material. Even so and since many kids will probably want to see this film, you should probably first look through the content before allowing them to see it.

  • None.
  • Dr. Smith's palm has a raw and near-burned look from where his communicator electrically shocked him.
  • Some blood runs down the side of Dr. Smith's head.
  • Dr. Smith has a gross-looking cut/wound on his back from where one of the spider-like creatures scratched him. We later see this again.
  • Dr. Smith has both. Not only does he program the robot to kill the Robinson's and destroy the ship, but once in outer space he continues to have both types of attitude.
  • Penny has something of the standard moody teen attitude, and isn't happy to be leaving all of her friends.
  • Don continually makes "the moves" on Judy, but nothing ever comes of it.
  • Don disobeys orders from John (to save the ship and the lives of everyone on board) and moments later the two get into an argument over that.
  • To very young kids the following will probably be tense, but to older kids who've already seen sci-fi movies, the following will probably just come off as adventurous.
  • Don must fly his spaceship in and save a friend whose spaceship is out of control and headed for a collision.
  • The youngest of kids may find a scene where the robot attempts to carry out his preprogrammed mission to destroy the ship and kill the Robinson's as tense.
  • Part of the crew must do what they can as they find themselves being pulled toward the sun, while others tend to Judy who nearly dies (from getting stuck in her deep sleep chamber).
  • The crew boards another spacecraft and slowly and cautiously explore it.
  • Some (and later many) large, spider-like creatures come scampering across the floor toward the crew. We then see a close-up of them and they have large, menacing teeth, and they then scamper after and try to attack the crew for several minutes.
  • We see a man who's part human, but mostly a huge spider-like creature (and dressed in a Death- like robe, all of which may frighten the youngest of viewers).
  • The crew tries to get off a planet that's beginning to break up.
  • Spaceship weapons: Used to fire upon and destroy other ships.
  • Laser "handgun" weapons: Used by the crew to fire upon the out of control robot and later the spider-like space creatures.
  • Machine gun/Knife: Seen in a holographic image (of Rambo's body) created by Will.
  • Electrical charges: Fired by the robot at the crew, and once back to normal, at the spider-like creatures.
  • Phrases: "Sucks," "Shut up," "Moron," "Pissing contest," and "Idiot."
  • One of the large, spider-like creatures suddenly attacks Don.
  • There is a moderate amount of suspenseful action music throughout the film.
  • None.
  • 4 "s" words, 9 damns, 6 hells and 1 use of "God" as exclamations.
  • Will alters a holographic image (of June Lockhart from the original show), leaving her head intact, but changing the body to that of a woman in a bikini that shows some cleavage.
  • The entire crew briefly wears ultra-tight, form fitting rubbery, spandex-like outfits that reveal every curve and bulge on their bodies.
  • Don is instantly attracted to Judy. After she comments that he's a different size than their previous pilot and that they'll have to make adjustments, he comments that he'd be happy to discuss his dimensions over dinner with her. Moments later he tells John (not knowing he's her father), "That's one cold fish I'd love to thaw."
  • Don asks Judy, "My quarters, or yours?" and then adds that he and she and the only consenting single adults in the galaxy and "What more of a setup do we need?" She then says that they should just "dispense with the pleasantries and get down to business." She adds "show me how you handle the helm...right here, on this console." He says that will be fine, but it turns out she's just leading him on, pours some water on his head and then says, "Why don't you just hang on to your joystick."
  • None.
  • We learn that the Robinson's aren't a happy bunch. John and Maureen are having marital problems, Penny isn't happy about that or going away with them, and Will is upset that his dad's never around.
  • Future interplanetary space travel.
  • Whether human's actions of today (Earth's resources being squandered) will necessitate something like the plot of this movie in the future.
  • The following, while violent, is mostly done in a sci-fi or cartoon-like way, and is never graphically violent.
  • The opening involves a space "dog fight" sequence where several ships are blown up and/or fired upon by other space ships (presumably killing some people).
  • There's a brief mention that the man who was supposed to pilot the Jupiter II was found murdered.
  • Dr. Smith is knocked unconscious from an electrical shock (intended to kill him) from a communicator he's holding.
  • The robot tries to carry out Dr. Smith's preprogrammed instructions to destroy the ship and kill the crew. Still being on board, Dr. Smith tries to stop it, but is knocked aside. The robot then fires electrical charges at others. Laser shots are fired back at it, and Don then hops onto the robot's back, but later gets an electrical jolt.
  • Dr. Smith elbows Don and then punches him.
  • John starts to choke Dr. Smith, but then rethinks that action and stops.
  • Don, the robot, and others blast many of the large, spider-like creatures that chase them in another spaceship. One of them scratches Dr. Smith on the back, leaving an open wound/cut.
  • A large spaceship is blown up.
  • Both Don and John are stunned by laser blasts to their backs.
  • Will gives Dr. Smith his gun who then quickly turns it around and holds it on the boy.
  • A part human, part spider creature knocks several people aside or down.
  • A spaceship blows up, killing everyone on board.
  • Don punches and knocks out Dr. Smith.

  • Reviewed March 27, 1998

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