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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Moonraker

Starring: Roger Moore, Lois Chiles
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Rated: PG
RunTime: 136 Minutes
Release Date: June 1979
Genres: 007, Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense

*Also starring: Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel, Corinne Clery, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

"Houston calling, Houston calling," a frustrated NASA ground controller says, trying reach James Bond and his female CIA companion out in space. Well, devotees of the series can guess their compromising positions, so when the controller announces he is about to initiate a live video feed directly into the White House and Buckingham Palace, the audience knows that we are about to have some embarrassed world leaders. Bond, on the other hand, remains typically unfazed. He's used to having his affairs being interrupted and observed. Another hard day in the life of the planet's most famous secret agent.

In the opening to 1979's MOONRAKER, the American space shuttle of the same name is stolen from the top of the 747 on which it is being carried to Britain. In a spectacular action sequence, the shuttle blasts away, turning the 747 into a fireball.

The maker of the shuttle and several others like it is a wealthy industrialist named Mr. Drax (Michel Lonsdale). He lives in California in an enormous French chateau, which he had brought over stone by stone from France. (He purchased the Eiffel Tower as well, but the inhospitable French wouldn't give him an export permit.)

When the British government enlists the aid of its best agent to investigate the shuttle's disappearance, James starts his inquiries at Mr. Drax's home and laboratories. With complete lack of subtly, the nefarious Mr. Drax sends his henchman, Chang, played without much energy by Toshiro Suga, to see that Mr. Bond's visit isn't a pleasant one. "Take care of Mr. Bond," Drax instructs Chang. "See that some harm comes to him."

In his fourth outing as James Bond and now firmly entrenched in his role as the superspy, Roger Moore seems comfortable in his perfectly tailored blue suit as he charms every female character. One of them, CIA agent Holly Goodhead, played by Lois Chiles from BROADCAST NEWS, has a knockout body and her own little bag of spy gadgets that rivals Bond's.

From France set in California, James hops the globe to Venice in pursuit of Dr. Goodhead -- she's in disguise as a member of Drax's space institute. And to the serenity of the peach colored stone walls of the Venetian canals, Bond and those chasing him bring powerboats, machine guns and gondolas that go on land as well as water. There's even a knife-wielding corpse who pops out of a gasket during a funeral procession through the Venetian waterways.

On the next stop in our spy adventure cum travelogue we take the supersonic Concorde to Rio de Janeiro as Bond follows a lead on an ultra-poisonous gas. Like any tourist James relaxes a bit. His version of casual dress is to trade his blue suit in briefly for a white one. His informality doesn't last long. Soon he's decked out in a formal tuxedo, in which, as in everything he wears; he looks straight out of a GQ fashion shoot.

Jaws (Richard Kiel), the man with a mouth of metal from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, returns again to try to thwart our hero. Although his metal may make mincemeat of his victims, we do learn some of its downsides, clearing security's metal detectors at airports being one. Why Bond and Dr. Goodhead choose to engage a seven-foot giant like Jaws in hand-to-hand combat rather than just plugging him is one of the story's many mysteries. But just as you're not supposed to question the logic of cartoons, neither should you waste too much time pondering the likelihood of Bond's predicaments and their resolutions.

The bad guy's plan this time is suitably dastardly. Our megalomaniac plans on ending civilization on the earth, it's a complete annihilation with repopulation by carefully selected humans. With shades of the ark, the space shuttles carry young couples who look like the cast of STARSHIP TROOPERS.

The space odyssey scenes, although fresh, slow down the pacing of a story already having trouble keeping up its momentum. And although the fight with a big rubber snake, I mean a man-crushing python, isn't much, the battle with the green-light laser weapons does have good visuals even if it looks lifted straight out of STAR WARS.

Besides, any movie where the lead wears a coat and a tie in a centrifuge is clearly one that doesn't need to be taken too seriously. Just kick back and enjoy it.

MOONRAKER runs a little long at 2:06. It is rated PG for comic violence and sexual innuendo and would be fine for kids around 9 and up.

My son Jeffrey, almost 9, said he thought it was a good movie, and he ended up liking Jaws, whom he hated in the last episode. He especially liked the scenes in space with all of the super-lasers shooting at each other. His favorite weapon was Bond's "flick of the wrist gun."

Copyright 1998 Steve Rhodes

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