Picks and Pans Review: Starman

UPDATED 12/17/1984 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/17/1984 at 01:00 AM EST

Women generally don't fare well in sci-fi films. They're either screamers to be rescued or schemers to be stopped. Even Princess Leia is often a bystander. But in its own backhanded way, Starman condescends to women more than any sci-fi movie since The Stepford Wives, in which the suburban spouses turned out to be robots. This adventure insists that the cure for a lady's grief, loneliness and even sterility is not an extramarital but an extraterrestrial affair. Despite nifty special effects and an '80s sex scene, Starman is a '40s weeper given a high-tech twist. This is a real star-crossed romance: The forbidden love is between Karen Allen, a young Wisconsin widow, and an alien who assumes the shape of her dead husband, Jeff Bridges. Although not of this world, the starman acts as though he's read too many Alan Alda interviews: He bears a striking resemblance to the New Man of the '80s—sensitive, warm, forgiving and considerate in bed, he's a real Mr. Goodstar. He also comes on like Mister Rogers from Planet Nine, spouting observations that reassure the audience. "You are a strange species, not like any other," he explains. "You are at your best when things are at their worst." Director John (Halloween) Carpenter apparently still hasn't gotten Christine, his last film, out of his system. As government officials try to capture Bridges, Carpenter dwells on his car chases. And for a filmmaker who has given his horror films a distinctive signature, Carpenter surprisingly relies on Spielbergesque touches: wind chimes that announce the alien's arrival, blue lights in the living room, a spaceship climax at an isolated Western location. Even the overlong chase that dominates the film seems paraphrased from Spielberg's Sugarland Express. Although Starman wants to suggest E.T in Love, it ends up more like E T. in Hock. (PG)

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