Another day, another nostalgic sitcom movie adaptation. But, with My Favorite Martian, Hollywood is truly scraping the bottom of the barrel. (Well, one could argue that the barrel scraping started with Car 54, Where Are You? and McHale’s Navy, but let’s not quibble, shall we?) The headache-inducing My Favorite Martian has little to offer but empty special effects and a vacant sense of humor.
Jeff Daniels stars as Tim O’Hara, a struggling television journalist. He spends his time chasing pointless news stories while lusting after the boss’s sexy reporter daughter, Brace Channing (Elizabeth Hurley), and completely ignoring his production assistant, Lizzie (Daryl Hannah).
Tim’s entire life is turned upside down when he witnesses a UFO crash. Before he knows it, the alien inside has donned human form, and moves in with him, posing as his “Uncle Martin” (Christopher Lloyd). As if living with an alien with magical powers wasn’t enough, Tim also has to put up with Martin’s self-animated talking spacesuit, named Zoot. (Zoot was apparently added to demonstrate special effects technology and provide comic relief…neither of which he does very well.)
In addition to repairing his spaceship, Martin must evade the governmental men in black who are hunting him down. Led by the obsessed scientist, Dr. E. Coleye (Wallace Shawn), and accompanied by the enigmatic Armitan (Ray Walston), the government agents will stop at nothing to capture a live Martian specimen.
This is the type of film whose most inspired scene is its very first (in which the Mars Pathfinder somehow misses evidence of a thriving futuristic alien society on Mars). It’s a scene almost worthy of a laugh, and everything is all downhill from there.
Borrowing a page from Flubber, My Favorite Martian subscribes to the theory that frantic special effects action simply must be humorous. The idea is that if there’s enough commotion on the screen, your mind will simply stop trying to find humor, and just assume that things must be funny. Granted, small children and the easily amused might actually fall for that ploy, but most people will simply get annoyed.
Christopher Lloyd’s spaced out spaceman is simply a variation on his familiar wild and eccentric characters. Martin could easily be Back to the Future’s Doc Brown with antennae (if only he were more amusing). Jeff Daniels once again plays the exasperated straight man. You would think he would be able to find better material than this by now.
Young children and others who don’t know better might pretend to find some sense of amusement in My Favorite Martian. But don’t be fooled…this film is even more desolate than the arid Martian landscape.