Mars Attacks! (1996)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Mars Attacks!</strong> (1996)

(Second viewing, On VHS, August 1997) Seen last year during its first week of release, and again this month with great pleasure. By no means a great movie, but one that’s just cool to miss. See it again for the subtle stuff; most of the comedy in this movie is of the type “I can’t believe I’m seeing this.” In retrospect, one of my favorite of 1996.

(Third viewing, On DVD, January 2009) Twelve years later, this spoof of Alien invasions works just as well, and maybe even a little bit better than when it was released. There have been a certain number of alien invasion films since then (and even a few alien invasion spoofs), but Mars Attacks! still holds up thanks to self-conscious camp material, a visual style of its own, and performances from a variety of actors you may not expect, from Jack Nicholson to Jack Black. There’s a cheerfully counter-authoritarian streak running through the film, as the victims are usually people with inflated opinions of themselves and the plucky working-class heroes manage to triumph over everything. It’s still decently amusing, and some of the gags are best appreciated with prior knowledge of the film rather than seen cold.

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