Lost In Space Review

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Outer space take on the Swiss Family Robinson.


Pioneering legit efforts to colonise far-flung planet Alpha Prime, dogged, career-consumed Professor Robinson (Hurt) is set to haul spouse and sprogs across the stars. Shortly after disembarking however, the Robinsons' robot goes berserk at the behest of dastardly saboteur Dr. Zachary Smith (Oldman), treating the ship like a rock band's hotel room and spinning it towards the sun. Out of options, they punch the hyperdrive, averting imminent fiery doom but leaving the family stranded somewhere in the galaxy, or - hey! - lost in space. And as this super-embellished onslaught ebbs, several complicating factors have been deftly sketched: the professor has intimacy issues with son Will (Jack Johnson), West fancies eldest daughter Judy (Heather Graham), younger daughter Penny (Lacey Chabert) hates everyone, and Mrs. Robinson (Rogers) is a modern, sexy mum who cares deeply for her brood. Oh, and Smith is a bounder and a cad.

But sketches they sadly remain, due to the perennial danger forcing an endless parade of eye-poppers. It's true enough that among a seven-strong human ensemble, not all roles can be fully fleshed out - Oldman is good value and LeBlanc manages a nice, if standard, flirtation with Graham, but even Johnson's attempts to gain fatherly acceptance lack sufficient time to stick convincingly. And in this shortfall, the film loses its grand design, for though there's an obvious, admirable effort to supply character development and plot twists, the set-work and special effects - both stylish and stunning - tend to dominate. Praise is nevertheless due to the host of effects houses responsible for hideous space spiders, a ship ominously reminiscent of Event Horizon and countless other amazing visuals.

And director Hopkins has at least produced a finished article that rips along, and while playing with a more nervy edge than the smiley 60s TV show, original cast members making cameo appearances makes for a clever nod to its origins - June Lockhart is upgraded to school principal and Mark Goddard, similarly promoted from major to general, brow-beats LeBlanc as he rails against his "baby-sitting" assignment. Stateside success has already made a sequel probable - with the cast all contracted for another two - but this may be no bad thing, for having been established here, the Robinsons' subsequent voyages will have much more room to manoeuvre.

This well-remembered outer space take on The Swiss Family Robinson began as an adventure show with scientific footnotes - including episodes about the likely climate on a planet with an elliptical orbit, for example - but hits a more entertaining, campy note as Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris) and his robot sidekick ('Danger! Danger!') upstaged the rest of the cast.