IHAO on ... The Cat From Outer Space

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Rotten Tomatoes - Critics n/a ; Audience 59%
Flickchart - 5265 of 28311 i.e. in the top ten percent
IMDB - 5.9 rating
Metacritic - n/a
Amazon.com - 4.6 stars

Another cat film.  So soon.  Oy vey.  I dunno if I can handle it.  But I have to.  The reviews must go on!  Let's stick this puppy ... kitty in and get going.  The stats are at least better than the last few.  Actually ... they are way better.  What's the big idea?  Is this going to not be torturous?!  Dare I have an actual good movie to watch this week to break up the crash and burn to the bottom of the film trash heap?  I'm excited!

The Cat From Outer Space is a family science fiction-ish film made by Disney in 1978.  And it is filled with a lot of amazing actors from the time, many I was surprised to recognize.  Thank goodness for The Muppet Show.  The schtick is that a spaceship lands and needs repairs, and the alien is a cat.  But the military are on the scene immediately, and take the ship.  They then gather scientists to figure it out, which leads to three scientists helping the cat, affectionately named Jake, to send him off, but some secret bad guy group wants his power!  Everything is good by the end, we are reaffirmed that America is indeed great, and we go home happy.

The special effects are what you expect from a late 70s film ... actually, that's not fair.  That leads that I think the effects are bad.  And they aren't, most of them are really great.  Sure, I can see the composites easily, and in HD I can spot all the wires, but that doesn't really make them bad.  Merely ... authentic, more time capsule and enjoyable than a mistake.  And the effects that works are superb.  There is a surprising amount of stunt work, and all of it is awesome.  I was on the edge of my seat for the finale for the most part.

The acting is all earnest, and the actors all inhabit their characters and do a great job.  They were all believable and funny, serious when need be, but mostly just having a good time, and that's great.  The cat was an incredible actor, too.  Not often do you see such a good acting animal in film.  The music is pretty awesome too.  It hit all the right notes, musically and tonally, and almost always helped drive the action and the scenes forward.  The script was also very tight.  It told a story with a bunch of competent characters, being competent, trying to solve problems.  The characters were written well, the dialogue made sense, the jokes were right on point.  Really great.

So why don't I love this movie?

But ... but, you said all the good things ... I don't understand.

A few reasons I can think of, I suppose.  The film clocks in at 104 minutes.  That isn't too long, now that we've had Jacksonian "epics" shoved down our throats for years.  But for this film, even with the plotting being so tight, it lead to ... space.  Each scene had a little bit of just extra ... space in it.  It's like every scene was bloated, every action and series of shots need some trimming.  So the movie starts to drag.  And the very climactic finale, with amazing plane and helicopter stunts and a daring rescue ... all starts falling flat after you keep watching the same thing for 3 minutes.

This film was suggested with the conceit that it may actually be good, but it put that reader to sleep when they watched it.  And I get that.  The tension, while being there, is never really cranked up.  The music doesn't stand out or get my heart going.  Every obstacle is overcome with a smile and a laugh, and in act 3 many of them are just bypassed entirely, like entering the base, or in Act 1 when escaping the base and how easy that turns out to be.  The movie never really cranks itself up into that next gear, and that plus the fatted scenes make it just kind of waddle along.  Enjoyably waddle, but nonetheless it takes awhile.

Also, there is a whole subplot/theme of Red Scare in here.  We even have a spy working for an evil organization ... a non-Communist, non-Russian organization run by a Mugatu look alike.  He isn't menacing, and in fact, the spy becomes merely comic relief, which was unnecessary with all the smiling and joking our heroes are doing and the comic relief already present in the military.  The whole thing came across as unnecessary, and then you have the cat Jake sworn into citizenship at the end.

I feel like you are giving me mixed signals.

I dunno.  The movie is really good.  And I know I liked it.  But I don't know if I'd ever really feel like watching it again.  I could certainly have it on in the background, that'd be fine.  And I know owning it so it can be shared with others will be fun.  But for all the really good in it ... there's some really unfortunate setbacks that keep me from really loving it, as well as keeping it from being a truly great movie.  It aims to be a good one, and it succeeds there.

Grade: B+

  • June 3rd – Gigli (from Rachel Runion)  Grade: C
  • June 4th – Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (from Joel Gould)  Grade: D--
  • June 5th – Lenny the Wonder Dog (from Jason Schmidt)  Grade: F+
  • June 6th – The Cat in the Hat (from Josh Hendricks)  Grade: F---
  • June 7th – The Cat from Outer Space (from Nicole Clockel)  Grade: B+
  • June 8th – Popeye (from Drew Turner)

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