My Favorite Martian

on February 12, 1999 by Mike Kerrigan
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   All too often, transferring a beloved TV series to the bigscreen entails little more than lifting the title and a few character names. That's not the case with "My Favorite Martian." Not only are the filmmakers faithful to the spirit of the original, but in the closing sequence they pay tribute to it in a clever and quite charming way.
   Naturally, the special effects in the movie version are a quantum leap from what TV viewers saw; the latest technology and big pots of money will do that.
   But all the shape-shifting and pyrotechnics would be wasted unless you buy the relationship between the Martian who passes himself off as the Uncle Martin of his earthling host. On the small screen, Bill Bixby and Ray Walston had wonderful chemistry, and so do Jeff Daniels and Christopher Lloyd.
   Daniels ("Pleasantville") is a TV producer whose scoop of the century evaporates after he develops an affinity for the Martian who has taken over his life. Martin's spaceship has crashed, and his only ambition is to go home before the booby trapped craft blows up.
   Lloyd ("Back to the Future"), to absolutely nobody's surprise, is perfect in the title role, and Wallace Shawn, as a half-demented alien chaser, is an impeccable foil. Elizabeth Hurley as a TV reporter and Darryl Hannah as a cameraperson are little more than window dressing. But you can't say that about the Martian's silver spacesuit. Not only can it move on its own and talk up a storm, but it also has a delightfully sardonic personality. Zoot (the voice is uncredited) should definitely be nominated for an Oscar--in the Best Costume category.    Starring Jeff Daniels, Christopher Lloyd, Elizabeth Hurley, Darryl Hannah, Wallace Shawn and Christine Ebersole. Directed by Donald Petrie. Written by Sherri Stoner & Deanna Oliver. Produced by Robert Shapiro & Jerry Leider and Marc Toberof. A Buena Vista release. Comedy. Rated PG for some crude humor, action-violence, sensuality, partial nudity and language. Running time: 93 min.
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