LOST IN SPACE

Stars: Gary Oldman, William Hurt, Matt LeBlanc, Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham, Lacey Chabert, Jack Johnson. Written by Akiva Goldsman. Directed by Stephen Hopkins. Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual innuendo.

The "Lost in Space" movie has exactly three things in common with its television namesake: the premise, the character names, and the title itself. Gone are the colorful uniforms, the sunny disposition, and the heart-warming family interaction. In their place is an almost non-stop parade of special effects, action sequences, and one-liners. The film is even set a century later, but that can be forgiven seeing as how the TV-bound mission was supposed to have launched in 1997. Purists may balk, but I think changes make the film twice as fun as the series ever was (and I liked the show, cheese and all!).

The first character we are re-introduced to is Major Don West (Matt LeBlanc) who is now a gung-ho fighter pilot whose risky combat maneuvers place him in hot water with his military superiors. When the original pilot of the Jupiter 2 winds up dead at the hands of a subversive organization, Major West is called upon to take his place. The mission of the Jupiter 2 is to take the family Robinson to a distant habitable world where they will establish a colony and begin work on a hyperspace gate that will link the new world with Earth. The family is placed in cryogenic sleep for the ten years it will take the spacecraft to make the voyage.

Just hours after their journey has begun, the robot accompanying them goes berzerk and tries to destroy the craft and murder its occupants. It is discovered that their supposed friend, Dr. Zachary Smith (Gary Oldman), has sabotaged the mission by reprogramming the robot. Unfortunately, though, he was trapped unconscious on the ship when it lifted off and now needs the Robinsons' help to stay alive. Normally his actions would warrant a quick dispatch from Major West, but in this case he is spared because it is only he who can save the life of daughter Judy (Heather Graham) when her cryo-tube malfunctions.

Although everyone survives, the ship is thrown way off-course. So off-course, in fact, that Professor John Robinson (William Hurt) canít even determine their present position. An inspection of a nearby space station results in a startling discovery: they may not be displaced in just space, but time as well. Whether or not they can get out of their current predicament may just lie on the shoulders of the youngest Robinson, the boy genius Will (Jack Johnson).

"Lost in Space" has a lot going for it, not the least of which is Gary Oldman as the evil, bumbling Dr. Smith. William Hurt and Mimi Rogers as the Robinson parents are workable, but a bit on the bland side. The filmís spunk and modern attitude are supplied by the three Robinson kids and Major West, the latter of whom pursues the eldest daughter with great zeal. Look for cameos by several cast members of the television show.

Ironically, it is when the film eschews its reliance on special effects and action and focuses on the family unit, as was the norm in the series, does it falter. The sentiment towards the end of the film feels especially out of place in this otherwise rock-em-sock-em sci-fi adventure. Think of "Lost in Space" as more a family of "Starship Troopers" than the "Brady Bunch" in space.


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