Independence Day (Roland Emmerich)

Rating: **1/2 (out of ****)

Most of this summer's SuperMegaGonzoBoffoSocko pictures have been incredibly stupid, but Independence Day, which presumably needs no further introduction, is the only one that appears to have actually been designed to be incredibly stupid. Perversely, that gives it a tacky kind of charm. Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, who together wrote, directed, and produced this mix-'n'-match compilation of every hit movie ever made, work with a conviction that bears comparison to Edward D. Wood, Jr. (though they have a bit more talent, and a lot more money) -- it's hard not to respond to a film that's working this hard to entertain you, even in such a dopey, derivative way. An unbelievably cheesy sci-fi epic that resembles The War of the Worlds as it might have been conceived by Irwin Allen, Independence Day features the requisite astounding special effects (which actually aren't all that outstanding, but the cut-rate quality admirably suits the film's cornball tone), a few fun performances (Jeff Goldblum doing his usual shtick; Brent Spiner channeling Dennis Hopper circa Apocalypse Now), and plenty of silly, mindless fun. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of irritations: Judd Hirsch as the Querulous Old Jew, vainly attempting to wrest the title of "Most Annoying Actor in a Supporting Role" from Jami Gertz; romantic and "tragic" subplots that aren't ridiculous enough to be funny but are too moronic to be taken seriously; a heapin' helpin' of ugly jingoism (clearly intentional -- there's a reason this movie is called Independence Day rather than, oh, Mars Attacks!). Worst of all, the resolution is extremely unsatisfying; I won't give anything away, but let's just say that a title card reading "And then one of our heroes came up with a brilliant plan, one much too complex to be explained in detail, and anyway it makes no sense at all, so just trust us when we tell you that it's a stroke of genius" would not have been inappropriate. I won't pretend that parts of the film didn't thrill, excite, and amuse me, but ultimately it wasn't a whole lot better than any of the Airport movies I saw as a little kid, which isn't saying much for one of the biggest hits in movie history.