Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Mission to Mars' Should Have Been Scrubbed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Mission to Mars' Should Have Been Scrubbed

Article excerpt

There's such a thing as good corny movies, good old-fashioned filmmaking.

Then there's Mission to Mars, as cliched and lumbering a bigbudget movie as we've seen in a long while.

I'm all for a rousing space opera populated by square-jawed Americans performing heroic feats. And when it stays as straightforward as its title, Mission to Mars, it stays mostly out of trouble.

But then it bogs down in an utterly ridiculous Big Ending, heading toward a moment of such unsurpassable sappiness (I can't say much, but it involves a tear rolling down a cheek) that it had the audience around me laughing in disbelief.

The story of a hurried expedition to rescue astronauts who've met a strange fate on the Red Planet, it's a little Close Encounters, a little 2001, a little Contact, but mostly a lot of nothing.

It's a strange detour for the director, one-time provocateur Brian DePalma, who's gone beyond mellow and entered some zone inhabited by TV movie-of- the-week directors, a zone with no exit.

DePalma slogs through this movie, coming to life only for a pretty cool dance in zero gravity. But even that scene is marred by the unsettling realization that people will apparently still be listening to Van Halen in 2021 (their Dance the Night Away is the chosen ditty).

There seem to be huge gaps missing between crucial scenes, and the movie hurtles through its Big Ending, as if trying to wrap it all up before some arbitrary deadline.

Meanwhile, Ennio Morricone's score huffs and puffs, wringing every bit of majesty -- no, make that MAJESTY -- out of Mission's numerous emotional scenes. The music's better at some quieter, quirkier moments, but any time we're supposed to feel choked up, we're reminded by an orchestral hammer upside the head.

Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Connie Nielsen and Jerry O'Connell (who's there as comic relief) star as astronauts who head to Mars to rescue an expedition led by Don Cheadle. …

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