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[whitespace] Lost In Space
Jack English/New Line Cinema

Danger, Will Robinson: Jack Johnson and the Robot go looking for trouble in 'Lost in Space.'


Space family Robinson still cheesy after all these years

By Richard von Busack

SUPPOSEDLY, the thrifty producer Irwin Allen used to encourage dumpster-diving among the art directors on TV's Lost in Space in hopes that they could find something useful for the show. The space monsters on Lost in Space were usually the most cut-rate beasts since Phil Tucker's character Ro-Man, the gorilla with a diving helmet on his head from 1953's Robot Monster. The essential cheddariness of the film Lost in Space is an unintended tribute to its source. The computer-generated attack spiders that threaten the space family Robinson look like escapees from an obsolete video game, and Blarp, the family's computer-generated, vomit-pink space monkey pet is something you'd expect from Eastern Bloc sci-fi.

One smart bit of updating has the Robinsons as a dysfunctional space family. A pinched Mimi Rogers seems ripe for divorce from her abstracted husband (William Hurt). Unfortunately, since Akiva Goldsman (who scripted Batman and Robin) didn't make the family psychodrama more than incidental, Rogers comes off as a shrew--whereas the cloud-capped Hurt, reprising his lost-in-space persona from The Accidental Tourist, is the last man on whom you'd want the fate of the planet to depend. (And Matt LeBlanc, as the rocket jockey Major West, doesn't know the difference between dash and crucifying arrogance.)

One important point of the original show has been preserved. Jonathan Harris' Dr. Zachary Smith, the stowaway adder on board the Jupiter 2, beguiled a generation with his mean smile and gilded syllables. If you grew up in Podunkland, Harris was all you knew of well-spoken villainy, and many are the children who prayed they would grow up to be just like Dr. Smith. In fact, a certain well-known English rock band given to naysaying, whining and theatrical despair is supposed to have named themselves after Lost in Space's villain. Perhaps you've heard of the Smiths. Gary Oldman has, and his Dr. Smith, a smoother, sotto voce model of Harris' original, steals the show. At the end he metamorphoses into something really intimidating--a sort of space-age Caliban. Unfortunately, Goldsman's derivative dialogue, the Battlestar Galactica opening sequence and the acting by LeBlanc and the psychotically pert Lacey Chabert (of Party of Five) as Penny Robinson can leave you moaning, "Oh, the pain, the pain."


Lost in Space (PG-13; 2 hours, 15 minutes), directed by Stephen Hopkins, starring William Hurt, Gary Oldman and Mimi Rogers.

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From the April 2-8, 1998 issue of Metro.

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