Picks and Pans Review: Stargate

updated 11/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Kurt Russell, James Spader, Viveca Lindfors, Mili Avital, Jaye Davidson

The idea for this tortured, incomprehensible travel fantasy comes from a source that should have set off warning alarms: cowriter-director Roland Emmerich (Universal Soldier) thought it up while he was a student at film school.

It is about, more or less, a device that was excavated near the Pyramids of Giza in 1928 and can be used to travel to another dimension that may or may not be on another planet that understands nuclear physics and either emulates or founded Earthian Egypt.

Spader is an Egyptologist hired by the U.S. government to accompany a trip via the gizmo to New Egypt or wherever it is. Russell heads the mission, as a Special Forces colonel with a gratuitous plot point to grind (his child accidentally killed himself with a firearm). The U.S., of course, sees the weapons potential in the portal.

The ersatz Egypt is ruled over by a punky boy-god played by Davidson, who is abjectly unconvincing as a vicious despot. Avital, in a role that would have been played by Maria Conchita Alonso if this were New Peru or Costa Rica, provides a love interest for Spader as a rebel princess type. The venerable Lindfors, as a government scientific consultant, is to be pitied for adding this blot to her distinguished escutcheon. (PG-13)

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