H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds
by Barry Meyer
The one without the lunatic Hollywood star or the little crooked-toothed girl
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Man, if there’s anything that can ruin a producer’s day, it’s when he finds out that the movie he’s been waiting his whole life to make has secured funding at the same time that Hollywood uber-director Steven Speilberg announces that he’s making the very same movie. That’s got to be a bummer.
While theater goers fight the crowds at the multiplex to see Tom Cruise kick alien ass, stay-at-home DVD viewers can cheer on from the comfort of their own couches as another Thomas tries to rid Jersey of the nasty space creatures. 80s-teen-Matthew-Broderick clone C. Thomas Howell plays a dedicated father desperately trying to flee the alien attacks in New Jersey (or maybe he’s just escaping the ever-present odor) and hoof it all the way to Washington DC to rescue his wife (the cuter-than-Dakota-Fanning Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots) and son (he’s no Dakota Fanning, but he is Howell’s real-life son Dasiell) before the alien death squads get to them.
Howell demonstrates his years of experience in front of the Hollywood cameras by putting in a solid and charismatic, sometimes moving, performance. It’s when he has to share time with the wooden amateurs that we’re sorefully reminded that he has to do time in this low-budget straight-to-video actioner. On the other end of the acting spectrum is Jake Busey as a rogue military officer who abuses the catastrophe to forward his own power hungry agenda (you can make your own 9/11 analogy here). His attempt at capturing the wild-eyed charismatic fury of his father, Gary Busey, is laughable—and not in the way he trying for. Director/producer/writer David Michael Latt does his best to overcome those tight purse strings by delivering a solid looking film, filled with some relatively impressive CG effects. But the film’s visual appeal doesn’t hold up to the lack of action and solid writing.
Barry Meyer is a critic and writer living among the cockroaches in New Jersey.
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