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Titan A.E.

movie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Bill Pullman, Tone Loc, Janeane Garofalo, Ron Perlman, Nathan Lane, Jim Breuer, John Leguizamo

Review by John Beachem
2½ stars out of 4

It's the 31st century, and mankind has no home. The aliens, known as the Drej, destroyed the earth because they believed mankind was becoming a massive threat to their existence. Before the earth was destroyed, some of the population managed to escape and form colonies on ships out in space. Cale (Matt Damon) is one such person, working out a miserable existence and wandering about the stars without a home. The difference is that Cale's father created a device called the Titan, which is said to be mankind's last hope. He hid it from the Drej before they destroyed the earth and implanted a map showing where to find it in Cale's hand. Captain Korso (Bill Pullman) has been searching for Cale for 15 years so he could find the Titan and give humans a fighting chance. Cale joins with Korso's crew, which includes the lovely Akima (Drew Barrymore), the bizarre but intelligent Gune (John Leguizamo), the wise cracking Preed (Nathan Lane), and the kangaroo like weapons officer, Stith (Janeane Garofalo). The six search desperately for the Titan, but the Drej are right on their tails.

Back in 1981 there was an unusual animated film called "Heavy Metal", based on a series of semi-adult magazines. "Heavy Metal" was actually groundbreaking at the time because of two factors: One, it was clearly made for adults due to the graphic violence and sexual content; and two, it didn't follow one specific storyline, but contained several short stories which were interconnected. If "Titan A.E." had been released back in 1981, it might have been hailed as groundbreaking and developed a cult following. The animation style is very similar to "Heavy Metal", and the story is complex enough that only teens and adults are going to understand exactly what's going on. Unfortunately, being released in 2000 has guaranteed the movie a short run in theaters. The animation in "Titan A.E." is nice, but nothing spectacular; the storyline may be complicated, but it's loaded with every cliche in the book; and the 3-D animation is nothing we haven't seen before. So why the three and a half stars, you ask? Because despite all these faults the film is just so darn enjoyable and amusing that you can't help but have a good time watching it.

Most of the voice casting in "Titan A.E." is rather unusual. The character of Cale seems to have been made with Matt Damon ("Good Will Hunting") in mind, so he can't help but do a fairly good job. Drew Barrymore, as the obviously Asian Akima, is one of the most unusual choices, but she actually does a decent enough job. The weak links are Bill Pullman ("Lake Placid") and Janeane Garofalo ("Mystery Men"). Pullman has always seemed too whiny and annoying to me, and he's playing the rough world weary Captain Korso here? I don't think so. Janeane Garofalo, usually a talented comic actress, doesn't add anything to the character of Stith, but I'm not sure this is entirely her fault since the character is so underdeveloped. The other two casting bits are a bit more interesting. Nathan Lane ("Mouse Hunt") and John Leguizamo ("Spawn") are given the two most unusual characters in the movie, and they handle them in very different ways. Preed looks like a hairy version of Jar Jar Binks, a stuttering goof who can't do anything right. Lane plays him in exact opposite fashion, as a conniving, sneaky character who thinks he's a lot smarter than he actually is. Leguizamo's character of Gune is not the kind of character you would expect in a movie aimed at kids. His insane ramblings will only confuse youngsters, but they sure made me laugh out loud. Here's an example of one of his best lines: "I made this last night in my sleep. I'm not sure just what it does, but it has a button on it which I'm eager to press, but I'm afraid of what might happen if I do."

Obviously if you're going to see "Titan A.E." it's because you like either animated movies, sci-fi movies, or the rare combination of the two. The sad fact is that this movie fails at being any of these. If you want really nice animation you'd be best off going to see a Disney movie. If you want sci-fi, you'll want something original like "The Matrix" rather than something saddled with this cliche ridden mess of a plot. "Titan A.E." actually succeeds when it throws things at us which we'd never expect. An example of a great scene was one where the group tries to sneak past a guard at a door by pretending to be slave traders. The guard pretends to be fooled and then laughs and points out that Korso doesn't walk like a slave, Preed should have threatened him rather than bribed him, and they're all obviously wearing bed sheets as disguises. Preed gives the film's best line here: "An intelligent guard, that was unexpected." If the movie had been full of more scenes like that one it may have been something great. Instead we get every cliche from reluctant hero has change of heart when seeing the plight of his people, to turncoat is saved by hero and subsequently changes sides again. Still, "Titan A.E." is fun, with an interesting if out of place '80s soundtrack and a hysterical ending. I give it three and a half out of five stars and a recommendation to wait for video since it won't take long to get there.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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