The Brunching Shuttlecocks Features

I saw Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace. When it was over, the theater gave me gum. I'm not sure why they gave me gum, but they did. A bunch of ushers stood outside the doors holding baskets of gum for everyone. I'm guessing the gum people made a deal with the theater to give out free gum at Star Wars as a gum promotion.

What does this have to do with the quality of the movie? I'm not sure, except to say that I guess the audience is supposed to have bad breath after watching Star Wars.

And while I may or may not have had bad breath after the movie, it did leave a bad taste in my mouth. It's hard to define, because this was not a horrible movie. But there was just something that didn't quite do it for me.

I would have absolutely loved this movie about 2 1/2 years ago. Back then, such things as character development, quality acting and cohesive story lines meant nothing to me. I was in it for the rush of adrenaline. Star Wars One delivers a very nice rush indeed. But there are problems.

Don't get me wrong, there was a lot of really great stuff. The effects were amazing. Sometimes. I mean the cgi landscapes looked stunning, and the army of robots were pretty cool, and the Pod Race was incredible. But on the other hand, certain alien races didn't seem to have their lips and voices synched up properly, Darth Maul's horns looked like they were pasted on and then there's Jar Jar.

Jar Jar Binks is an elastic Ewok from the deep south. He's entirely digital, and he looks it. He's certainly a step or two above the hairless monkey from Lost In Space, but he's still not quite right. Plus, and this has nothing to do with the technology, he's a really annoying character -- and I wanted him to die.

The story of the movie -- as if any of you haven't already seen it -- is amazingly uninteresting. A Trade Federation of rubbery fish people is going to invade the planet Naboo for no particular reason. Two Jedi Knights arrive and sprint the Queen to safety. They head for the capitol of the Galaxy, which from space looks an awful lot like Earth after it was assimilated by the Borg in Star Trek 8, with a quick stop on good old Tatooine to pick up some supplies and the Chosen One. They get to Capitol Planet, and then turn around and go back to Naboo. Then they fight a battle against a million over-sized Mr. Coffees.

Still, it IS Star Wars. It looks and feels very much like Star Wars. And it sounds great. The final lightsaber duel is darned cool, although it includes one of the most unexplained plot devices known to mortal man.

But I have a problem with any movie that has more than one character blurt out, "Yippie!"

So here is a quick list of things that were cool and uncool about the movie.

Cool: Battle Droids. Roly-poly dudes that unwrap themselves into tricycles of death.

Uncool: The reliance on force fields. Every creature and character and building has a billion force fields to protect them. What happens if there's a power-outage?

Cool: Darth Maul's double-sided lightsaber. Not a good idea to get him angry.

Uncool: The fact that Darth Maul is supposed to be the ultimate in evil, and we never really see him do anything mean other than fight Liam and Ewan. I mean come on, Vader choked his own Admirals! Plus, what's up with the Gene Simmons look?

Cool: R2-D2's introduction. I always thought this kid rocked!

Uncool: C-3PO's introduction. He's so uninteresting, they leave him behind and go on with the movie.

Cool: Huge underwater fish with razor sharp teeth.

Uncool: The fact that they are supposed to live "in the planet's core." Any scientists wanna ring in on that one?

Cool: Natalie Portman's outfits.

Uncool: Natalie Portman's acting.

Cool: Blue goo-balls of death.

Uncool: Making the final assault against some ship in orbit that's controlling the droids. Where's the Death Star when you need it?

Cool: Did I mention the Pod Race?

Uncool: Did I mention Jar Jar Binks?

Cool: The Force.

Uncool: The explanation of the Force given in this movie. It goes from being this mystical energy flow to being a bunch of parasites. Lame.

Cool: That Greg Proops is in the movie.

Major Uncool: That the alien races really struck me as stereotypes of various races of people here on earth. The following characters bothered me. The Viceroy. Watto the junk dealer. Boss Nass and Jar Jar Binks. In fact, the entire Gungan race may as well have been in blackface. I mean it's one thing if Jar Jar talks in pidgin English when he meets the Jedi Knights, maybe English isn't his native language so he has an accent. But when the Gungans gather and speak in Ebonics, that's crossing the line.

But is the movie any good? You tell me. Personally, I was left uninspired and a little disappointed on one hand, and enthused and excited on the other. Two years ago or so, I read a report where someone working on the movie got to read the script and remarked "Good God, we're basically making an animated feature!" And when push comes to shove, that's the best explanation of this film. It's a cartoon. That isn't good or bad, but it changes how you might want to look at the film.

I'm going to give Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace 3 27/37 Babylons. If you're a die-hard fan or a boy of 10, you can add a Babylon to that score. If My Dinner With Andre is your favorite movie, you might want to subtract a Babylon.

Editor's Note:

The Critic is all talk. He plays with his Jar Jar Binks doll daily. Sissy.

Star Wars: Episode One O- the Phantom Menace
Rated: PG
Directed By: George Lucas
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Pepsi, KFC, Random House Books and Jabba the Hut as Himself. (I'm not kidding, watch the credits.)

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