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Movie Review

New Line Cinema's special effects-fest Lost in Space—a serious PG-13 thrill ride based on the kitschy TV series (1965-68)—blasted off to less-than-stellar reviews. Even so, it drew enough young science fiction fans and nostalgic baby boomers to end Titanic's 15-week reign as the country's number-1 movie. But what awaits viewers beyond the stars?

It's the 21st Century. Earth's ecology is in trouble, necessitating the colonization of other worlds. To that end, the crew of Jupiter 2 must launch into the cosmos and construct the receiving end of a hypergate that would allow transportation back and forth from earth. Who's on this critical mission? The scientifically gifted Robinson family, along with a hotshot pilot, a robot and an evil saboteur who gets trapped on-board. From the outset, this squabbling troupe finds itself bouncing from one life-and-death crisis to another.

Lost in Space charts its course into extremely familiar sci-fi territory. Portals into parallel galaxies. Time warps. Space battles led by cocky fighter pilots. Abandoned ships that aren't really empty. Lots of unintelligible techno-babble. Still, it isn't the familiar, but the familial territory that gives the movie its identity.

The Robinsons are a loving, yet mildly dysfunctional clan beleaguered by Dad's somber introspection and workaholism. He neglects the children--most notably his young son, Will--and habitually makes amends via "apology videos." Will is upset because Dad missed his science fair. Meanwhile, daughter Penny (Party of Five's Lacey Chabert) epitomizes the futuristic mall rat, a trying adolescent who appears perpetually poised to crash a punk-rock concert. She's bitter about having to leave her friends behind. All of this tension leads parents John and Maureen Robinson to debate the needs of the mission versus the needs of the family, after which Dad concludes, "Maybe it doesn't do any good saving a world of families if we can't save our own." Good point. The film also esteems sacrifice, self-control, teamwork and friendship.

Unfortunately, the movie earns its PG-13 rating for harsh language. There's also a hideous half-man/half-spider creature, several intense action scenes, and sexual come-ons and references to alcohol use by a brash top-gunner (played by Matt LeBlanc of TV's troublesome sitcom Friends).

At one level, Lost in Space succeeds as a fun, visually arresting popcorn flick armed with noble messages and a family uniting for survival. But it drifts into another dimension. For all of their 21st Century refinements, why couldn't these characters have learned to communicate without using profanity? After all, they did very well without it for 83 episodes on CBS.

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