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In this episode: Star Trek Neuf | Bashing Mr. Sandler | Changing A Bug's Life's Bloopers

Such an intelligent word to put in the title of such a brain dead movie. This is the lamest and most TV-like installment of the Star Trek movies.

Here's a little bit of shtick to show you what I mean:

Data, Picard, and Woman Who Speaks With The Voice Of A Melting Bog Of Soothing Ooze (a.k.a. Anij, a.k.a. Donna Murphy, a.k.a. Stanley Tucci's wife on Murder One) have fallen into a lake. Anij can't swim. Data turns to her and says, "In the event of an emergency, I have been designed to serve as a flotation device." There is a hissing sound, and Data rises in the water.

Ha ha ha.

I think he should have said, "In the event of a lousy script, I have been designed to serve as simplistic comic relief." Hisssssssss.

I read the script for this movie months ago, and I am pleased to say that it pretty much made it to the screen without any major changes. I am also pleased to say Saddam Hussein is a misunderstood genius who should not have been bombed.

Ha ha ha.

Because the script was so lousy, I had it in my head that I would boycott this movie completely, a la Godzilla and Batman and Robin. But then I realized I had sat through Star Trek IV (the silly whale one) and Star Trek V (the silly God one) without any adverse effects other than a dumbfounded sense of betrayal. Well, this one, Star Trek IX (the silly stupid dumbass Utopia one) is debilitatingly wasteful. It wastes film, it wastes money, it wastes electricity,it wastes manual labor, it wastes popcorn and candy, it wastes time. Precious, precious time. In the glory days of Start Trek: The Next Generation, this story would have been executed in 48 minutes (or is it only 42 now?). It still would have sucked, but at least you could have said, "Well, maybe it'll be better next week." Now you have to say, "Well, maybe it'll be better in two years."

I'm gonna ruin this one with glee, so if you want to see it without knowing any plot points, skip ahead to the part that says —Steve.

The Enterprise (E, lest you've forgotten what letter they're on now) ends up going to the aid of a planet inhabited by a peaceful, dull people. Their way of life is threatened, and it's time for Picard and his Prime Directive hooey to save the day. How many times have we seen this sort of thing in the show? Too many! There was only one utopian episode that was any good, and that was "The Inner Light," where Picard gets "kidnapped" and ends up living his life in a peaceful, agrarian society. He calms down. He slows his pace. He learns to play the Utopian Flute. Of course, he then ends up returning to the Enterprise (D, lest you've forgotten what letter they were on then) to find out the whole thing happened in just a couple of minutes. However, he retains the peace that he gleaned from... blah blah blah. Isn't it scary I know that? Isn't it scary I remembered what the episode was called without having to go do a little research on the Web?

I think this is more scary: Why is it when the Trek crew goes to other worlds, they (the worlds) are strangely homogenized? It's always the entire planet that's mellifluous or hostile. There's no variation. Hell, you can't even say that about a single city on Earth, can you? I'll chalk it up to writing laziness.

Anyway, the Dull planet in ST:I is under threat from this race of Silly Putty people who are in a constant state of plastic surgery. They are being aided in their bad plans by—GASP!—The Federation itself! You see, the Dullard People's planet is constantly bathed in a wash of beams or rays or particles or some such Space Thingy, and these rays rejuvenate and restore and... well, it's the Planet of Youth. It turns out that the Silly Putties want to steal the beam ray particles to make themselves youthful again, and doing that would kill the planet, so they were gonna move the Dullards to another world in a big holoship. It takes almost an hour to learn this much.

Picard and the others stumble upon this whole scenario and decide it's wrong, dammit, wrong. They decide to risk impeachment—er, I mean, courts martial—by disobeying the General in command of the mission. Oh, and, of course, the whole planetary system is inside a nebulous Space Cloud that looks a lot like the Space Cloud from Star Trek I (the silly Space Cloud one), so our happy band of rebellious shipmates can't contact the Federation to warn them about what's going on. They are—*sigh*—on their own.

There are many stupid things about this movie. Shall I give you some? I think I shall!

Stupid Thing #1—The holoship that was going to move the Dullards is hidden under a lake and cloaked. Data discovers the holoship (and pets a fish), and to show Picard and the others it's there, he drains the lake by opening a valve. The lake drains enough water in 5 minutes to reveal the whole top half of the ship. Oh, but the water level of the lake in the background hasn't lowered any. Duh. Once inside, Picard, Data, and Woman Who Speaks With The Voice Of A Melting Bog Of Soothing Ooze figure out that Data must have discovered this ship before, which is why he lost his mind (see Stupid Thing #7) and his memory (not worth assigning a Stupid Thing number). But if he'd been in the ship before, wouldn't all the water have leaked in? Maybe it was a special water-only force field that kept the water out. Duh.

Stupid Thing #2—Picard has filled his Captain's Yacht with all kinds of weapons and supplies to take down to the planet to help save the Dullards from the Silly Putties. The rest of the ST:TNG cast enters, having figured out what he's up to. They are all in "civilian" clothes except Riker and Geordi. Well, guess who Picard orders to stay on the ship? Riker and Geordi. Picard should just have said, "Those of you who had the foresight to get out of your uniforms have followed proper procedure and will therefore get the distinguished honor of serving me in this matter of disobedience." I think the costume designer just lazed out. Too many donuts from the craft services table.

Stupid Thing #3—Picard and the others lead the Dullards to some caves to prevent transporter beams from being used on them. That's just stupid because it's been done 46,000 times before.

Stupid Thing #4—A Little Dullard Boy, who strikes up a dorky rapport with Data, returns back into the crumbling caves to find his pet woogie. I don't know if that's what it was called, but that's what it looked like to me, a woogie. It was very, very cute, like a tiny, fuzzy walrus. Anyway, Little Dullard Boy, by returning to the crumbling caves for his woogie, causes people to go back in after him and almost get KILLED!!!

Stupid Thing #5—Worf's Klingon zit.

Stupid Thing #6—Gates McFadden even having bothered to show up on the set to portray Dr. Crusher. She gets a couple lines, half of which are stupid, punny jokes. Or maybe she was smart, because she got paid to do nothing.

Stupid Thing #7—Data, in the beginning of the movie, has malfunctioned thanks to the Silly Putties. He is acting in odd ways which make us and the Enterprise folks think he's gone bananas. Picard and Worf try to capture Data, who's flying a Silly Putty shuttle. Picard and Worf, chasing in an Enterprise shuttle (which looks very cool, by the way!), are able to trick Data into letting down his guard by singing that overused "I am the very model of a modern Major General" song from (I think) H.M.S. Pinafore, for which Data was rehearsing before leaving for this mission. Oh. How, um, brilliant.

Stupid Thing #8—Okay, the Dullards number 600. Most of them are hundreds of years old. Why hasn't their population exploded? You can't tell me Little Dullard Boy and his friends are the only kids in years. Come on, it's a farming community! That means all there is to do is work, eat, and reproduce! I just don't buy it. Of course, if they can resist the urges of technology, they can resist the urges of sex.

Stupid Thing #9—The main evil Silly Putty man (F. Murray Abraham, of all people) has a friend and staunch supporter named Pl'tar or Fram'boises or B'jork or something. Guess who turns against evil Silly Putty man at the last possible moment to help Picard escape and save the day?

Stupid Thing #10—Anij's male companion—who I thought was her husband but I guess he's not because Picard falls in love with her and they kiss and things, so I guess the guy's just her brother or maybe a father or an uncle or who the hell can guess since they never mention it unless they did when I was snoozing—looks a lot like Captain Kirk, or at least Kirk's son from STII and STIII, thanks to the dorky permed hair and Shatner-esque face. It's unnerving and distracting.

Stupid Thing #11—Rick Berman

Stupid Thing #12—Michael Piller

Stupid Thing #13—Me, for having paid to see this.

Well, it seems that whole thing about odd-numbered Star Treks sucking is still working. Though I don't think I agree with that abstract. On hindsight, here's my very basic thinking on the ST movies:

I: Boring.
II: Great.
III: Fine.
IV: Dumb.
V: Idiotic.
VI: Bad.
VII: Okay.
VIII: Neato-keen.
IX: Lobotomized.

Looking at the above, I wonder why I bother to go see any of these movies at all. They don't have a good track record for me. Well, it's the whole science fiction thing. I am much more willing to sit through bad science fiction than bad comedy or bad thriller or bad drama. Why? Because I just generally like the genre. Consider, too, that sci-fi is easy to miss. You can find brilliance in sci-fi that you never would have been told was there, but you have to take chances. Look at how everyone underestimated Blade Runner. People overlooked it at first because, I think, it was sci-fi. Now it's a classic. Very few people have seen Akira, but it is amazing. And most of The Fifth Element is amazing. Star Wars is an exception to all this because it is sci-fi as accepted immediately into the larger public consciousness. That is rare, however. Good sci-fi—unnoticed or popular—can do amazing things that can't be done in other genres. It is a daring combination of reality and imagination. Sci-fi takes risks. When those risks don't work, sci-fi blows, as I like to say, wicked big chunks. But when those risks come together and work, like Star Wars and Alien and Aliens and Blade Runner and Star Trek II and ST:TNG's several excellent TV episodes, sci-fi is very, very rewarding and stimulating to watch. Therefore, I give it a chance. Star Trek movies usually always deserve that chance.

Too bad this one blew wicked big chunks.

In other news, here's something very fun I found on, of all things, a Mac website, MacCentral. It's by a columnist of theirs named Andy Ihnatko. He's always funny, but he's usually talking about computers. Over Thanksgiving, he was counting things he was thankful for, and this odd, uncomputery item made his list.

"This year, I am thankful that Adam Sandler's latest movie has grossed over a hundred million dollars in its first three weeks of release. Not because I'm in any way a fan of the man or his work, either. See, having followed a big success like The Wedding Singer with an even bigger success with The Waterboy, Sandler's power and asking price will soon increase exponentially, and for someone in his position the inevitable companions of money and power are certain unfashionable habits which will eventually bring an end to this senseless parade of Adam Sandler movies completely. Oh, no, no... I'm not hoping to see him wheeled out of the Chateau Marmont under a sheet or anything ghastly like that. Honest, a Corey Feldman-style tailspin into drugs and excess and the resulting unhireability which ensues will suit me just fine."

For you Adam Sandler fans out there, you may take heart in hearing that my department is having a little holiday get-together this Friday which will include snacks and a screening of The Waterboy. So you can grin while imagining me sitting there, writhing under Adam's no-doubt irritating voice affectation and goofy but always the same face-making.

Just remember, I get to review it afterward.

Insect news! Pixar and Disney are changing the bloopers at the end of A Bug's Life. On Friday, theaters showing the movie will have spliced a new last reel onto the film, so during the credits, the bloopers will be different. If you wanted to see it again anyway, wait till Friday so you can see the new outtakes.

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©1998 Steven Lekowicz except that part by Andy Ihnatko.