Picks and Pans Review: Invaders from Mars

updated 06/23/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/23/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The original 1953 film was a naively effective salute to childhood paranoia. Jimmy Hunt first could not convince anyone that he had seen a spaceship land near his backyard; then everybody, including his parents and the police, started turning into Martians. This remake by director Tobe (Poltergeist) Hooper does not seem seriously intent on scaring anyone. Neither is it enough of a send-up to be funny. Karen Black plays a school nurse, the only person who believes Hunter Carson, 10 (Black's son in real life), when he says his mother and father, Laraine Newman and Timothy Bottoms, have turned into Martians. Louise Fletcher plays a mean-tempered teacher at Carson's school, which is named after William Cameron Menzies, the director of the 1953 Invaders. (In another inside joke, Jimmy Hunt comes out of retirement—he's a sales manager for a tool supply company—to play the police chief in this version.) James Karen is a Marine general who is finally persuaded to take on the Martians in their non-earthly form in which they resemble ham hocks with teeth. Fletcher and Black are especially hammy, broadly overacting as if to make sure everyone knows that they'd really rather be doing Macbeth. Hooper himself inserts a clip from his 1985 film Lifeforce, which could not even save itself let alone another film. Maybe when the real Martians finally come, they at least will get something out of this movie: a thrill, a chuckle, a light snack, whatever. (PG)

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