<! this is just a line spacer>
The Day The Earth Stood Still
<! pre preserves exact line breaks and spacing> <! ... here if you don't want the directed by sidebox on the left with the actor's names>
Poor New Jersey: First the Hindenburg disaster, then the Orson Welles radio version of the "The War of the Worlds," then the smell of the oil refineries around Bayonne; everyone dumps on New Jersey; it's a wonder anyone still lives there. And now we have to deal with Keanu Reeves in "The Day The Earth Stood Still," most of which takes place in New Jersey. Reeves is one of the great wooden actors of our age; he has no screen charisma, no empathy, no looks with which to beguile us, no voice or even an accent that we will remember after the film is over. I've never understood why he still gets leading roles to play.
All of which makes him perfect for the role of Klaatu, the alien who comes to earth to supervise the ridding of the human race in order to save the rest of the earth from more of our depredations. This time they come in spheres, including one that lands in the middle of Central Park; but quickly the government sweeps up Dr. Helen Benson of Princeton, played by Jennifer Connelly, where she's an expert in something like extra-terrestrial biology, to find out just who these aliens are. Well, Klaatu takes human form and carefully explains to Jennifer why the universe can't stand us, and believe me he's got something there, but still - the whole human race? and besides, Jennifer has a step-son, played by Jaden Smith, the 10-year-old son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, who somehow comes with his step-mother wherever she goes, and then of course turns out to be the reason why Klaatu decides not to obliterate the earth after all - oh, you thought he did?
Now this is a kind of remake of the 1951 version of "The Day the Earth Stood Still," with Michael Rennie as Klaatu, but I have to admit I never saw the original and the fact is that I really like this version. It's well-paced, the special digital effects aren't really intrusive, except where they bring down a football stadium - now that hurts - and as I say, Keanu Reeves is perfectly cast as Klaatu.
And in another nice bit of casting, Kathy Bates is the Secretary of Defense, channeling Madeleine Albright. And guess who plays Jennifer Connelly's mentor, the famous Professor Bernhardt, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for, and I quote, "Altruistic Biology"? None other than John Cleese, whose advice to Jennifer, if I remember it right, is to "Persuade him not with your reason but with yourself." Now what was he thinking? I just don't want to go there. In any case, "The Day The Earth Stood Still" turns out to be a very good evening out, in a nice old-fashioned film evening way. You can't really ask for more.
12/12/08 <! new pasted review ends on line above>